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Wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi expresses hope for pardon

AFP , Saturday 28 Nov 2015
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The wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi expressed renewed hope Saturday that her husband might soon be pardoned after a senior Swiss official said such a move was in the pipeline.

Ensaf Haidar has been outspoken over the plight of her husband since he was detained in 2012 on cyber crime charges and later sentenced for insulting Islam and calling for the end of the influence of religion on Saudi public life.

Yves Rossier, the secretary of state at the Swiss foreign ministry, said in the newspaper La Liberte on Saturday: "A procedure for a pardon is now under way before the head of state, that is King Salman."

Haidar, who lives in Quebec with their three children after seeking asylum in Canada, reacted with guarded optimism.

"I hope this is true and I have confidence in the Swiss government," she told AFP.

"I met the Swiss president (Simonetta Sommaruga) a few months ago and she assured me that the Swiss government was working very hard on Raif's case."

Rossier raised the blogger's case during an official visit to Riyadh this week.

The European Parliament last month awarded Badawi, 31, its Sakharov human rights prize.

Announcing the award, parliament chief Martin Schulz called on King Salman to immediately release Badawi, denouncing his 10-year jail term and flogging sentence as "brutal torture."

Badawi received the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes sentence in January but there have been no more, following criticism from the European Union, United States, Sweden, Canada, the United Nations and others.

His lawyer Walid Abulkhair, who is also in prison, received Friday in Geneva an international human rights prize from the European bar associations for his work defending rights in the oil-rich kingdom.

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