Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, says she spoke to Badawi, who served a 10-year sentence for “insulting Islam”.
Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been released from prison in Saudi Arabia after serving a ten-year prison sentence.
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with the couple’s three children, announced the news on Twitter and also said she spoke to Badawi by phone after his release.
A Saudi security official also confirmed that Badawi was no longer in prison and said he was “released today”.
Badawi was arrested and imprisoned in Saudi Arabia in 2012 under the country’s cybercrime law, after being accused of “insulting Islam” and creating a liberal online forum.
He had criticized on his blog the Saudi religious police, a force that has since seen its power eroded in recent years by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and had also called for an end to the role of religion in politics.
A court sentenced Badawi to 10 years in prison in 2014, as well as 1,000 lashes.
While in prison, Badawi, 38, became a cause celebre for activists calling for human rights reforms in Saudi Arabia and won a Reporters Without Borders prize for press freedom.
It is unclear what the conditions of Badawi’s release are. His 2014 conviction also included a 10-year travel ban that would follow the end of his prison term.
“Cruel and inhumane” punishment
Badawi received his first 50 lashes in January 2015, but the others were suspended after worldwide condemnation.
The United Nations had described the punishment as “cruel and inhuman”. Saudi Arabia finally abolished flogging in April 2020.
Badawi suffered from health problems while incarcerated.
Ensaf Haidar, his wife of 20 years, said in 2018 that she and their three children had not seen him in nearly eight years. They are now Canadian citizens.
“I hope one day to live normally with my children and my husband,” Haidar said last week.
“He’s an open-minded man, he likes freedom, he likes women to be independent,” she added.
If Badawi is allowed to leave Saudi Arabia, he will be able to live in Canada after lawmakers voted unanimously to grant him citizenship.
The issue has upset relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada, which called for the release of activists jailed in 2018. In retaliation, Riyadh expelled Canada’s ambassador, froze trade with Ottawa and transferred Saudi scholarship students In other countries.
But last year the kingdom began releasing a number of rights activists in response to global pressure, including Loujain al-Hathloul in February 2021, followed by Raif’s sister Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah in last June.
However, released activists still face restrictions. Al-Hathloul, who had campaigned to legalize driving for women in Saudi Arabia, remains banned from travel and has a three-year suspended sentence.
Many political prisoners are still being held in Saudi jails, including Muslim scholar Salman al-Awdah and economist Essam al-Zamel.
On Tuesday, the United States called on Saudi Arabia to review ‘prisoners of conscience’ cases and lift travel bans and other restrictions on released prisoners, during a Human Rights Council debate. United Nations man in Geneva.
A Saudi diplomat told the forum that no one had been arrested or detained for “exercising the right to freedom of expression or defending human rights” and called the allegations “unsubstantiated”.