Blogger Raif Badawi publicly flogged
Despite international pressure on Saudi Arabia not to inflict a barbaric punishment on Badawi, who was found guilty of insulting Islam, the authorities inflicted the first batch of 1,ooo lashings today in front of the al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah.
Amnesty International confirmed to the Independent that Badawi received the first round of 50 lashes after Friday prayers. The floggings will continue every Friday over the next 19 weeks.
A witness told the human rights organisation that Badawi was removed from a bus in shackles and taken to a public square in front the mosque. He was then flogged in front of a crowd and security guards for 15 minutes, before being put back on the bus and driven away.
Amnesty says Badawi, who started the “Free Saudi Liberals” website, was arrested in June 2012 for creating an online forum for public debate and over accusations that he insulted Islam. His website has also been shut down.
Badawi was originally sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July last year, but an appeals court overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial – which then earned him a more severe sentence of 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki had earlier joined world-wide calls for the inhumane punishment not to be carried out and said the US was “greatly concerned” by reports of the inhumane punishment.
Ms Paski said:
The United States government calls on Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case and sentence.
Badawi’s lawyer, human rights activist Waleed Abu al-Khair, has also been jailed for 15 years after being charged with “undermining the regime and officials”, “inciting public opinion” and “insulting the judiciary”.
Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, condemned the flogging as a:
Vicious act of cruelty prohibited under international law. By ignoring international calls to cancel the flogging Saudi Arabia’s authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles.
It is appalling that 19 weeks of flogging await Raif Badawi over the coming months. Saudi Arabia’s authorities must act immediately to halt all further floggings.