Saudi Arabia: Release blogger Raif Badawi, still behind bars after five years

Marking the fifth anniversary of the arrest of Saudi Arabian blogger and prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi, Samah Hadid, Middle-East Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International said:

“Raif Badawi has already served half of his prison term, but he shouldn’t be locked up in the first place. Saudi Arabian authorities must ensure his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. 

“Blogging is not a crime. The harsh punishment of Raif Badawi shows the Saudi Arabian authorities’ blatant contempt for freedom of expression and the extent to which they are willing to go to crush all forms of dissent.”

Background:

Raif Badawi was detained on 17 June 2012 and sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison, followed by a 10-year travel ban and a 1 million Saudi Arabian riyal fine for creating an online forum for public debate and accusations that he insulted Islam. He was also sentenced to a cruel and inhuman punishment of 1,000 lashes, the first 50 of which were meted out in a public square in Jeddah on 9 January 2015. 

More than a million messages from Amnesty International activists have been sent in support of Raif Badawi since 2014. In 2015, the campaign also highlighted the plight of his lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, who is currently serving a 15-year prison term solely for his human rights work.