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Saudi blogger Raif Badawi released after 10 years in prison

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Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been released from prison in Saudi Arabia after serving a 10-year sentence for advocating an end to religious influence in public life, his wife announced on Friday.

“Raif called me. He is free,” his wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with their children, told AFP.

Badawi’s release was also confirmed by a Saudi security official who said on condition of anonymity that Badawi “was released today”.

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.

As a result, the 38-year-old has become a symbol of free speech around the world.

No details of his release terms – including a possible 10-year travel ban – were immediately available.

Amnesty International said in an email to AFP that it would “work actively to ensure that all conditions are lifted”.

“Raif Badawi, human rights defender in Saudi Arabia, has finally been released!” Amnesty also tweeted.

“Thousands of you have stood with us in defense of Raif Badawi for 10 years. Many thanks to all of you for your tireless support.”

Every Friday for nearly seven years, Haidar had held a public vigil for Badawi in Canada.

Colette Lelievre, a Montreal campaign organizer for Amnesty, said her release was “a great relief”.

“Ensaf was at a loss for words because it was so sudden. She worked so hard to free her husband that emotions overwhelmed her,” Lelievre said Friday after speaking with Badawi’s wife.

“It’s a big step forward for her,” she added.

The province of Quebec in Canada has paved the way for Raif Badawi to come to the country if he wishes by placing him on a priority list of potential immigrants for humanitarian reasons.