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Amnesty calls for the release of a Saudi blogger after his sentence expires

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Beirut (AFP) – Amnesty International has called for the release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi after he served his “unjust” 10-year prison sentence this week.

The 38-year-old, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and a decade in prison, was “arbitrarily detained solely for freely expressing his views”, according to a statement on Friday.

Badawi, who had advocated an end to religious influence in Saudi public life, received his first beating of 50 lashes, but the others were suspended after international condemnation.

“Raif Badawi spent a decade behind bars solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Saudi authorities must ensure his immediate and unconditional release and lift the illegal travel ban imposed on him so that he can finally be reunited with his family.”

Amnesty said Badawi completed his prison sentence on March 1.

The winner of the Reporters Without Borders press freedom prize was arrested and detained in Saudi Arabia in 2012 for “insulting Islam” and was sentenced at the end of 2014 to 10 years in prison.

His wife Ensaf Haidar fled to Canada and lives with their three children in Quebec, while continuing to press for her husband’s release.

Even after his release, Badawi faces a 10-year travel ban.