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Saudi blogger Raif Badawi released from prison still faces 10-year travel and social media ban

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been released from prison after spending 10 years behind bars, his wife has said.

But human rights groups say travel is still banned for another 10 years.

Mr. Badawi, who created and managed an online forum, was arrested in 2012, charged with “insulting Islam” and then sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.

He received 50 lashes in 2015.

His public flogging caused an international outcry and sparked strong criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, including its restrictive laws on political and religious expression.

“After 10 years in prison #Raifisfree,” tweeted his wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada, where she and their three children have been granted political asylum.

Amnesty International and Saudi human rights group ALQST said Mr Badawi still faces a 10-year travel ban.

“Raif Badawi is still stranded in Saudi Arabia, as he is prohibited from leaving the country for the next 10 years,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

The Saudi government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been accused of “insulting Islam” for comments posted on his website.(AFP: Ho family)

“After almost a decade in prison, Canada is relieved to learn that Raif Badawi has been released. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones,” Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said on Twitter.

Website calls for changes in religious practices

Mr. Badawi created the Free Saudi Liberals website, where he criticized the Saudi clergy and called for changes in the way religion is practiced in Saudi Arabia.

He was also fined 1 million riyals ($365,586). Prosecutors challenged an earlier sentence of seven years and 600 lashes as being too lenient.

In a rare public criticism of Saudi Arabia, the US on Tuesday urged the kingdom to review ‘prisoners of conscience’ cases and lift travel bans and other restrictions on previously released women’s rights activists from prison.

Mr. Badawi’s sister, Samar Badawi, was arrested in July 2018, along with more than a dozen other activists, on suspicion of harming Saudi interests. She was released last year.

ABC/son