Saudi postpones flogging of blogger for third week

AFP , Friday 30 Jan 2015

Raif Badawi (Photo: Reuters)

Saudi Arabia postponed Friday for a third week in a row the flogging of a blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, his wife said.

Raef Badawi "was not flogged" on Friday, his wife Ensaf Haidar told AFP, adding that the reason was unclear.

The 30-year-old received the first 50 lashes of his sentence outside a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on January 9.

The next round of the punishment was postponed for the following two weeks on medical grounds.

Badawi's case has already prompted worldwide outrage and criticism from the UN, US, the EU and others.

On Thursday, Haidar, who has sought asylum with their three children in Canada, voiced concerns about the health of her husband, who has been suffering from hypertension since his arrest in June 2012.

"Raef's health condition is bad and it's getting worse. I am very concerned about him," Haidar told reporters and lawmakers in Canada.

"It is impossible for a human being to withstand 50 lashes every week," she said.

Badawi co-founded the now-banned Saudi Liberal Network along with women's rights campaigner Suad al-Shammari, who was also accused of insulting Islam and arrested last October.

The charges against Badawi were brought after his group criticised clerics and the kingdom's notorious religious police, who have been accused of a heavy-handed enforcement of sharia Islamic law.

Rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday Badawi could suffer "debilitating long-term physical and mental damage" from continued flogging, which violates international law.

"Raef Badawi is a prisoner of conscience, whose only 'crime' was to set up a website for public discussion," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director.

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