The country’s highest court confirms 10-year prison sentence, 1,000 lashes for setting up website ‘Free Saudi Liberals’
Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence and 1,000 lashes for jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, human rights group Amnesty International said Saturday.
Badawi was arrested in 2012 in the city of Jeddah for offenses including setting up the website “Free Saudi Liberals” meant to spark debate and discussion about topics in Saudi society.
In January, Badawi was publicly lashed 50 times, despite widespread international condemnation.
The blogger has described in his first public remarks from prison how he “miraculously survived 50 lashes,” the German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.
In his remarks, 31-year-old Badawi recalled how he received the first round of lashes in January while surrounded by a cheering crowd that chanted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest), Der Spiegel said.
“All this cruel suffering happened to me only because I expressed my opinion,” Badawi was quoted as saying in what the magazine said was his first letter since being jailed.
Badawi’s remarks are the preface of a book entitled “1,000 Lashes: Why I Say What I Think,” which was published in Germany on April 1.
Ensaf Haidar, Badawi’s wife, told Al Jazeera by email she was surprised by the ruling.
“The case has been under review for several months and my family and I were shocked by the decision,” Haidar said. “We had had some hope that maybe he would get his sentence reduced, but that didn’t happen.”
Human rights groups and several Western governments have called on Riyadh to cancel the sentence of 1,000 lashes. Saudi Arabia postponed his public lashings, supposed to be conducted weekly after Friday prayers, on medical grounds, according to Amnesty.
A group of high-ranking U.S. lawmakers slammed Saudi Arabia after it carried out the first round of 50 lashes on Badawi, saying further repression of peaceful political dissidents could jeopardize their close partnership.
Haidar said she feared the court decision meant that Saudi Arabia would not wait long before punishing him in public.
“I’m very sad about this and very worried for Raif,” Haidar said. “I believe they will start lashing him again soon — I’m almost certain of that fact.”