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Saudis Postpone Floggings For Health Of ‘Blasphemer’

Raif Badawi, a Saudi dissident, blogger and activist, will not be whipped Friday in the second installment of his 1,000-lash sentence for blasphemy. Authorities cited concern for his health.

Badawi was examined Friday morning before receiving the second weekly round of 50 lashes. The doctor concluded that his wounds from last week’s initial round of beatings had not yet healed, and that another Friday of floggings could be deadly.

Badawi was sentenced last year to a total of 1,000 lashes, to be given 50 at a time after Muslim congregational prayers on 20 consecutive Fridays. He was found guilty of creating a website for free discussion of ideas, which included criticism of key Saudi religious leaders — construed by the court as “insulting Islam.” He had previously been accused of apostasy, which carries an automatic death sentence, but that charge was dropped.

Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Said Boumedouha, said in a statement: “[t]he notion that Raif Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous.” (RELATED: 2 Days After Paris Massacre, Saudis To Whip Man 1,000 Times For Blasphemy)

Eyewitnesses at last week’s public whipping said Badawi remained silent throughout his punishment, which took place in the square outside the al-Jafali mosque in the coastal city of Jeddah.

The punishment of flogging, or flagellation, goes back to ancient times, and appears repeatedly in the Bible. Jewish law only allowed a maximum of thirty-nine lashes for convicts. Jesus was famously whipped thirty-nine times by the Romans, and the Apostle Paul describes receiving the punishment himself in the 11th chapter of 2 Corinthians.

The United States government has urged Saudi Arabia to “cancel this brutal punishment.”

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