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Saudi blogger Raif Badawi flogging postponed second time

AUTHORITIES in Saudi Arabia have again postponed a second round of 50 lashes on the blogger Raif Badawi.

No reason has been given, but last week Mr Badawi was reported to be physically unfit to face the penalty after receiving the first flogging.

He was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.

His punishment has caused international outcry. Three weeks ago the case was referred to the Supreme Court by the office of then-King Abdullah.

The new Saudi King Salman has issued a decree pardoning what are described as “public right” prisoners, which could include Mr Badawi.

Suad al-Shammary, a rights activist and lawyer who worked with Mr Badawi on his blog, was released on Friday.

She had been held for three months without charge over comments she made on Twitter, which her opponents portrayed as anti-Islamic.Raif Badawi, 30, was due to receive the lashes over a period of 20 weeks. The first round was carried out outside a mosque in Jeddah on 9 January as a crowd watched.Mr Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar – who lives in Canada – told the BBC she was buoyed by Friday’s developments.

“I ask the world to remain by my side until Raif is released.”

She said she now hated Fridays – the day of lashings. “I turn into a mess, until I know his [Raif’s] fate.”On Thursday, Amnesty International said Mr Badawi could suffer “debilitating long-term physical and mental damage” if the flogging continues.

“Raif Badawi is a prisoner of conscience, whose only ‘crime’ was to set up a website for public discussion,” said Amnesty’s Philip Luther.

Raif Badawi established 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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