Tags: Middle East | War on Terrorism | Saudi Arabia | Badawi | blogger | public flogging | protests

Saudis Under Fire for Public Flogging of Blogger

By    |   Monday, 19 Jan 2015 03:57 PM

The fate of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes after running afoul of the monarchy, has created an international firestorm that shows no signs of abating.

Riyadh has been inundated by protests over its punishment of Badawi, 31, who had been convicted of "insulting Islam" after criticism of powerful Saudi clerics appeared on a blog he founded.

The blog was eventually shut down. Badawi was ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals — approximately $266,000, The Associated Press reported.

According to Amnesty International, Badawi, a father of three, has been sentenced to receive 50 lashes once a week over a 20-week period.

The punishment began Jan. 9 in the Red Sea port of Jiddah, where the blogger, his hands and feet shackled, was brought to a public square and whipped 50 times in front of a crowd that had just finished Friday prayers.

Last Friday, his punishment was postponed on medical grounds, according to Amnesty International.

Badawi has been in custody since mid-2012 after founding the Free Saudi Liberals blog, which he used to criticize Saudi clerics who follow an austere version of Islam known as Wahhabism. While the monarchy has liberalized in areas such as women's rights over the past decade, critics say it has become even more aggressive in going after political dissenters since the Arab Spring — a series of revolutions which broke out in Egypt, Syria, and other Arab countries since 2010, the Weekly Standard reported.

Last year, for example, Saudi Arabia reportedly broadened anti-terror laws to impose new criminal sanctions for criticizing the government and its interpretation of Islam.

A new law, passed in April, defined terrorism as any act which "disturbs the public order, shakes the security of society, or subjects its national unity to danger, or obstructs the primary system of rule or harms the reputation of the state."

Other Saudi bloggers in recent years have been jailed for tweets deemed to have "insulted Islam" or the Prophet Muhammad.

Badawi was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes as punishment, but a Saudi judge stiffened the sentence on appeal. After his arrest, Badawi's wife and children left Saudi Arabia and went to Canada.

Badawi's wife last week expressed concerns that he might not be able to physically withstand a second round of flogging.

"Raif told me he is in a lot of pain after his flogging; his health is poor," she told Amnesty International, according to The Guardian.

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The fate of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes after running afoul of the monarchy, has created an international firestorm that shows no signs of abating.
Saudi Arabia, Badawi, blogger, public flogging, protests, muhammad, medical, judge
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2015-57-19
Monday, 19 Jan 2015 03:57 PM
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