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Saudi Arabia: Renewed calls for release of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi on third anniversary of arrest

Wednesday 17 June 2015 - 1:00am

rbwLondon, 17 June 2015

‘All this cruel suffering happened to me because I expressed my opinion’ – Raif Badawi

17 June 2015 marks three years since the arrest of activist, blogger and editor Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia. Three years later he remains in prison for peacefully expressing his opinions and is facing 9,950 further lashes.

Raif Badawi had spent almost two years in prison before being convicted in May 2014 of ‘insulting Islam’ and ‘founding a liberal website’. He received a fine of 1 million riyals (approximately $266,000), a ten-year prison sentence and 1,000 lashes, to be administered each Friday after noon prayers.

‘Raif Badawi’s cruel and degrading punishment is a violation of his basic human rights. We call on governments around the world to call for his immediate and unconditional release.’ Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

On 9 January 2015, Badawi received the first 50 of the 1,000 lashes he was sentenced to outside a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. Subsequent rounds of punishment were postponed on medical grounds. In June 2015, the Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold this draconian sentence.

PEN International continues to call for Badawi’s conviction to be overturned and for him to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for his sentence of flogging to be halted immediately, as it violates the absolute prohibition in international law of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

PEN International also reiterates its call for the release of Badawi’s lawyer and brother-in-law Waleed Abu al-Khair, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in connection with his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.