Wednesday 21 February 2018

Saudi Arabia to resume flogging blogger

Ensaf Haidar takes part in a news conference calling for the release of her husband, Raif Badawi
Ensaf Haidar takes part in a news conference calling for the release of her husband, Raif Badawi

Richard Spencer in London

Saudi Arabia is to resume the flogging of Raif Badawi, the blogger whose first 50 lashes became the centre of an international outcry, his wife says she has been told.

Ensaf Haidar (pictured), who is now living in Canada with the couple's children, said the same "informed source" who originally tipped her off to the flogging of her husband in January had told her the punishment was about to resume.

If the statement is true, it will be a snub to Britain, which privately and publicly has intervened in the case, and especially the Prince of Wales, regarded as one of the kingdom's "oldest friends", who raised Mr Badawi's case personally with King Salman on a visit in February.

It may also be a response to the British government's decision to drop a contract with the Saudi prison system worth £5.9m, believed to have been taken in protest at Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

The flogging, which was suspended after the first 50 of 1,000 lashes were administered for health reasons, has not been resumed since.

"I was informed by an informed source, that the Saudi authorities have given the green light to the resumption of Raif Badawi's flogging," Mrs Haidar said.

"The informed source also said that the flogging will resume soon but will be administered inside the prison."

Mr Badawi was a liberal who was part of a brief flowering of dissent and political debate in the kingdom in the last decade.

That came to an abrupt halt with the Arab Spring, when liberals were seen as more of a threat to ruling regimes around the region rather than as a bulwark against hardline Islamism.

Mr Badawi, who ran a blog and wrote articles in particular criticising the country's religious establishment, was arrested in May 2012 and sentenced in May last year to 10 years in prison, a 10-year travel ban, and a ban on appearing on media outlets, as well as the 1,000 lashes.

The UN commissioner for human rights, Prince Zeid Al-Hussein, called the sentence "cruel and inhuman punishment".

After the Prince of Wales's intervention, it was hinted to journalists that King Salman may have used his ruler's prerogative to intervene to suspend the flogging. However, since then, relations between Britain and Saudi Arabia have soured.

Irish Independent

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