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Saudi Arabia Upholds Sentencing of 1,000 Lashes for Liberal Blogger Despite International Outcry, Floggings Could Continue as Early as Friday

Court's Decision Can't Be Revoked, 'Casts Further Stain' on Kingdom's Human Rights Record

Saudi Arabian web designer Raif Badawi
Saudi Arabian web designer Raif Badawi, who was recently sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes for creating a social media website which authorities claim insults Islam. |

The Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia has upheld the cruel sentencing of liberal blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes, a $266,060 fine and 10 years imprisonment after being charged in 2012 with "insulting Islam through electronic channels."

Badawi, a father of three, ran the Liberal Saudi Network, a blog that advocated for debate on religious and political issues. He was initially ordered to receive his 1,000 lashes by cane in increments of 50 per week over the course of 20 weeks.

As previously reported, Badawi received his first round of 50 lashes on Jan. 9 in the public square in the city of Jiddah by a member of Saudi security forces. The flogging was captured on a cell phone video and posted to the Internet, which sparked protests and drew outcry from the United Nations, European Union, United States and other countries calling for an end to his brutal punishment.

Badawi's subsequent floggings were postponed after doctors examined his body and ruled that it could not endure any more punishment because it had not healed from the first round of beatings. Amid the international outcry, the Saudi government ordered a review of Badawi's case, which did not change the outcome of Badawi's sentencing.

After German Vice Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, said Badawi's sentencing is "unimaginable" and would impact the kingdom's relations with Germany, the Saudi government stated in March that there was "surprise and dismay" at the international concern and that the kingdom "does not accept any interference in its internal affairs."

Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, told The Independent from Canada that she fully expects Badawi's lashings to continue following the court's ruling.

"I'm shocked," Haidar said. "The flogging will start again and no one cares."

In an interview with AFP, Haidar added that the family and its lawyers have now exhausted all their appeal options.

"This is a final decision that is irrevocable," Haidar asserted.

Although Haidar held hopes that her husband would be released, BBC reported that she spoke with her husband last week and he told her not to expect him to be released anytime soon.

"I was optimistic that the advent of [the Muslim fasting month of] Ramadan and the arrival of a new king would bring a pardon for the prisoners of conscience, including my husband," she explained.

The humanitarian organization Amnesty International condemned the court's ruling to uphold the "cruel and unjust sentence."

"Blogging is not a crime and Raif Badawi is being punished merely for daring to exercise his right to freedom of expression," Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Director, Philip Luther, said in a statement.

Luther added that Badawi's floggings could continue as early as Friday.

"By failing to overturn the sentence Saudi Arabian authorities 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," Luther said. "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."

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