In November 2014, Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” and “founding a liberal website.” Badawi will receive 50 lashes each Friday outside al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah following morning prayers for 20 weeks. The first flogging was delivered on January 9, 2015, and this punishment continues despite the fact that the governments of the USA, Canada, Germany, and Norway, among others, have issued condemnations. The extended punishment is likely to push Badawi’s body to its outermost limits, causing severe long-term damage and possibly death.

Case History

Raif Badawi is a blogger and was the editor of web forum Liberal Saudi Network. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, and three children sought asylum in Canada after his arrest on June 17, 2012 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Badawi is an honorary member of PEN Canada, Danish PEN, and German PEN, as well as the winner of the 2014 Reporters Without Borders Prize for Press Freedom in the “Netizen” Category, and the 2014 One Humanity Award from PEN Canada. Born in 1984, Badawi suffers from diabetes, and is reported to be in poor health.

Raif Badawi was arrested after organizing a conference to mark a “day of liberalism.” The conference was banned by the authorities. On July 29, 2013, a court in Jeddah sentenced Badawi to seven years and three months in prison and 600 lashes after he was convicted under the information technology law of “founding a liberal website,” “adopting liberal thought,” and for “insulting Islam.” The online forum, Liberal Saudi Network—created to foster political and social debate in Saudi Arabia—was ordered closed by the judge.

According to reports, the appeal, submitted by Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, cited procedural and evidential reasons why the conviction should be overturned and Badawi should be freed. In December 2013, it was reported that the Court of Appeals had reversed the ruling of the District Court in Jeddah, ordering that Badawi’s case be sent for review by another court. On May 7, 2014, Jeddah’s Criminal Court sentenced Badawi to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (approx. US$266,631) on charges of “insulting Islam” and “founding a liberal website.” According to PEN’s information, when Badawi appeared in court to collect a written account of the verdict, on May 28, 2014, he discovered the judicial addition of two further penalties: a 10-year travel ban and a 10-year ban from participating in visual, electronic, and written media, both to be applied following his release.

Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, continues to campaign for her husband’s release from Quebec, Canada, where she maintains his official Facebook page and Twitter account. For more information about his case, read PEN International’s interview with Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar here.

PEN also calls for the release of Badawi’s lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair arrested on April 15, 2014.