A blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes in Saudi Arabia will indeed take every one, despite a legal appeal and a significant swell of support around the globe.
Raif Badawi, 31, has been in jail for three years of a 10-year sentence that also included 1,000 lashings — 50 of which Badawi has already endured — on charges of apostasy and undermining security.
His wife, Ensaf Haidar, told news outlets Sunday that the supreme court had upheld the verdict. She also said she feared Badawi’s scheduled punishment of a weekly whipping session of 50 at a time would begin again on Friday. They were suspended after just one round of floggings in January, when authorities citied concerns for his health. (RELATED: Saudis Postpone Floggings For Health Of ‘Blasphemer’)
Badawi has been in prison since 2012, after starting a website dedicated to free political discussion in Saudi Arabia. For writing words considered insulting to the Saudi religious authorities, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes: an extraordinarily harsh crime even by Saudi standards.
After YouTube footage of his first whipping attracted an outcry from the international community, Badawi appealed to the country’s supreme court. Now that the court has rejected his appeal, Badawi’s only hope would be a royal pardon by King Salman. (RELATED: With Blogger’s Fate Unclear, Americans Offer To Take Saudi Blasphemy Whippings)
But many Saudi subjects are also eager to see the “apostate” brought to justice. Facing such intense public pressure, the king is unlikely to intervene directly on Badawi’s behalf.
At the same time, countries including the United States have demanded that Saudi Arabia cancel Badawi’s punishment, which State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke reiterated in Monday’s daily press briefing.
Michael De Dora, a representative of the secular-rights NGO Center for Inquiry, pointed out to The Daily Caller News Foundation that just last week, Saudi Arabia hosted a U.N.-sponsored conference on combating religious intolerance. At the conference, Saudi Arabia and other attending countries pledged to end “intolerance and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief.”
“Raif Badawi is able to fight against extremism” as a champion of free speech and critic religious intolerance, De Dora said. “But he’s not being allowed because of a government that is extraordinarily repressive against any dissent in the country — a country that is only advancing extremism.”
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