Global outrage and criticism from the United States, United Nations, European Union, and Canada was not enough to keep Saudi Arabia’s supreme court from upholding their extreme sentencing of 10 years in prison and 1,000 blood-curdling lashes as punishment for liberal blogger Raif Badawi, 31, on charges for insulting the religion of Islam.
His wife, Ensaf Haidar, who is seeking political asylum in Canada along with the couple’s three children, expressed “shock” over what she said was a final decision by the Saudis regarding her husband’s case. “This is a final decision that is irrevocable,” Haidar reportedly told the AFP in a telephone interview.
Badawi was arrested in June of 2012 after he criticized Saudi Arabia’s notorious religious police (known as the mutaween or formally as the Haia) on the Saudi Liberal Network; a discussion group he co-founded.
“Blogging is not a crime and Raif Badawi is being punished merely for daring to exercise his right to freedom of expression,”Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther told the Guardian.
Ensaf had held on to optimism that the advent of Ramadan and Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman would result in a pardon for several prisoners being held under similar circumstances, including her husband. However, Salman is widely seen as possessing a more extreme interpretation of the Sharia Law than the late King Abdullah.
Badawi released his first letter from prison in March where he described how he “miraculously survived 50 lashes.” The Guardian notes how he recalled a cheering crowd incessantly crying “Allahu Akbar” [God is greatest] during his relentless whipping. “All this cruel suffering happened to me because I expressed my opinion,” Badawi wrote.
Saudi Arabia is one of the foremost violators of human rights in the world. It is a country where homosexuality is punishable by death and people are routinely imprisoned and executed for speaking out against the religion of Islam.
In February, a Saudi Court sentenced a man to death for ripping up a Qur’an and cursing the Prophet Muhammad. The sheer volume of executions Saudi Arabia has carried out since the beginning of this year under King Salman’s reign has already reached the same number of people executed in 2014 alone. They have even put out wanted ads for executioners to help carry out these mass killings in a more expeditious manner.
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