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Saudi Arabia frees blogger Raif Badawi after 10 years in prison – JURIST

The Saudi government on Friday released blogger and human rights activist Raif Badawi after a 10-year prison sentence, his wife Ensaf Haider confirmed. Badawi founded an online forum, “Free Saudi Liberals”, which encouraged discussion of secularism and liberal religious practices. His writings were also critical of the Islamic clergy.

He was arrested in June 2012 for apostasy, insulting Islam and “disobeying his father”. The charge of apostasy, which carried the death penalty, was later dropped. In July 2013, a Saudi court sentenced him to seven years in prison, six hundred lashes and ordered his blog shut down. Saudi authorities, who reportedly found his sentence lenient, appealed to a higher court, which extended his sentence to ten years in prison, a thousand lashes, a fine of one million riyals and a ban on media and publicity. traveling for the next ten years from his Liberation.

Badawi received the first fifty lashes in a public square outside a mosque in Jeddah in 2015, which was met with a resounding international outcry. Due to Badawi’s deteriorating health and international outrage, the remaining lashes were not inflicted on him by Saudi authorities. In April 2020, the Saudi Supreme Court abolished flogging as a form of punishment.

With Badawi’s prison term ending on March 1, 2022, several human rights organizations called on the Saudi government for his immediate release. Although he was released ten days later, the conditions of his release are unclear due to the travel and media ban that is believed to still be in place. Badawi’s family fled to Canada after his arrest in 2012 and have since become Canadian citizens. Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, welcomed Badawi and said Canadian authorities are seeking “clarification on the terms of his release.”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Express his relief at Badawi’s release, calling him a “prisoner of conscience”, and criticized the long history of religious persecution of dissidents in Saudi Arabia. January is 2021 US State Department appointed Saudi Arabia as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1988 (IRFA). However, he later issued a waiver exempting Saudi Arabia from the sanctions it would have been subject to under the IRFA.

Badawi’s lawyer, Walid Abu al-Khair, has been detained since April 2014 and convicted of “inciting public opinion against the government”. He is serving a fifteen-year prison sentence, which will be followed by a fifteen-year travel ban. International organizations are also hoping for his release.