The decision by the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia to uphold the sentence of the blogger Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes is a dark day for freedom of expression in the Kingdom, Amnesty International said.
“It is abhorrent that this cruel and unjust sentence has been upheld. Blogging is not a crime and Raif Badawi is being punished merely for daring to exercise his right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“By failing to overturn the sentence Saudi Arabian authorities today have displayed a callous disregard to justice and to the tens of thousands of voices around the world calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Now that his sentence is final and cannot be revoked, his public flogging might start as soon as Friday and he will unjustly serve the remaining of his sentence. The court’s decision casts a further stain on Saudi Arabia’s already bleak human rights record.”
Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in jail, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals by Jeddah’s criminal court on 7 May 2014 for setting up an online forum for public debate. He is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and a global campaign has been initiated to call for his release, gathering the support of tens of thousands of people worldwide.
On 9 January 2015, Raif Badawi received 50 lashes after Friday prayers in a public square in Jeddah, prompting an international outcry. For two subsequent weeks his flogging was called off based on medical advice. He has not been flogged since, and the authorities have not disclosed the reasons why. After this decision, the risk of him receiving the remaining 950 lashes is imminent.