A Saudi blogger sentenced to ten years in jail and 1,000 lashes for criticizing the kingdom’s extremist Wahhabi ideology is not well, his wife says.
The 31-year-old blogger, Raif Badawi, has been imprisoned by Riyadh since 2012.
“My husband is not well. His health is poor. His mental condition is not good,” Raif’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, said in Berlin, where she is to receive a prize for her husband recognizing courageous journalists.
Badawi received the first 50 lashes in January, but the kingdom had to suspend flogging after international outcry over his health conditions.
His wife said his flogging could resume at any time even though he suffers from high blood pressure.
Badawi was arrested over material on an internet forum that he created to encourage public debate, criticizing the influential Saudi clerics who preach Wahhabism. Criticism of Wahhabi clerics is viewed as a red line as they are instrumental in supporting Riyadh’s policies.
His flogging is to be carried out in 20 sessions in front of a mosque. He has been also sentenced to USD 266,000 in cash fine, a ten-year ban on overseas travel, and a ten-year ban from participating in visual, electronic and written media.
On October 29, Badawi was honored by the European Parliament as a symbol of the fight for freedom of speech. “I urge the king of Saudi Arabia (Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud) to free him, so he can accept the prize,” Parliament President Martin Schulz said back then.
International human rights organizations have lashed out at Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.
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