CAIRO – The public flogging of Saudi activist and founder of Saudi Liberal online Network Raef Badawi was postponed by Saudi authorities for health reasons.
Badawi was to receive 50 lashes on Friday after being condemned for insulting Islam.
A spokesperson for the human rights organization Al-Karama told Efe that she is in contact with Badawi’s family, adding that the flogging was postponed as the activist suffers from health problems after receiving the first 50 lashes last Friday.
The spokesperson explained that postponement was also due to pressure exerted by the international community and NGOs on the Saudi authorities to halt the physical punishment.
“This case involves from the very beginning, since the arrest of Badawi, a violation of human rights, for all he has done is express his views in a peaceful manner,” said the spokesperson.
Badawi is currently being detained in a prison located in the Saudi city of Jeddah, and was arrested on charges of insulting Islam and directing criticism at the Saudi Islamic religious police through his internet blog.
The activist was sentenced to 10 years in prison last September, and condemned to receive 1,000 lashes. He is thus scheduled to be publicly flogged with 50 lashes every Friday until he reaches 1,000, the first session of which took place last Friday.
Al-Karama considered that the cancellation of the physical penalty would not be enough and called for Badawi’s immediate release.
The activist’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with her children, described the accusations against her husband as “absurd,” and assured that he did not deserve this sentence.
Badawi saw his wife for the last time three years ago, after she fled Saudi Arabia with her children, moving first to Lebanon and then to Canada.
Badawi’s sentence has been criticized by human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch.
Amnesty International launched a campaign to curb the punishment, while the European Commission described the sentence as “unacceptable.”