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Blogger lashing: Saudi rejects criticism of Badawi case

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SAUDI Arabia has expressed “surprise and dismay” at international media reports criticising the flogging of a Saudi blogger for insulting Islam.

In its first official statement on the case the foreign ministry said it rejected any interference in its internal affairs.

Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail last year.

He received the first 50 lashes in January prompting strong criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

The foreign ministry said it could not accept any impingement on the country’s sovereignty, nor on the impartiality and independence of its judiciary system.

In a statement, it unequivocally rejects any aggression under what it calls “the pretext of human rights”.

The statement comes after Mr Badawi’s case prompted international protests and was raised by several governments and international organisations.

Ahead of his current visit to Riyadh, Germany’s economic affairs minister and vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, was urged by MPs and human rights organisations to take up Mr Badawi’s case during his talks.

Mr Badawi’s 1,000 lashes were scheduled to be administered over 20 weeks.

He received his first 50 lashes outside a mosque in Jeddah in January, but subsequent rounds have been postponed.

Mr Badawi established the Liberal Saudi Network, a now-closed online forum that sought to encourage debate on religious and political matters in 2008.

In 2012, he was arrested and charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience”.

In 2013 he was cleared of apostasy, which could have carried a death sentence.

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict version of Islamic law and does not tolerate political dissent. It has some of the highest social media usage rates in the region, and has cracked down on domestic online criticism.



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