Ottawa (AFP) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his “serious concern” over the continued jailing of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi to the kingdom’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz, his office said Tuesday.
The 34-year-old prisoner, who ran a blog that promoted free speech and women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for “insulting Islam” in a case that sparked an international outcry.
His wife Ensaf Haidar has been granted asylum by Canada, where she is raising their three children now aged 14, 13 and 10 as a single mother.
According to a readout of Trudeau’s call with the Saudi king, the two “spoke about the importance of respecting human rights and freedom of speech, as well as democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia.”
Trudeau “also raised consular issues, and expressed his ongoing, serious concern about the imprisonment of human rights activist Raif Badawi.”
In January, Haidar had held out fresh hopes that her husband might receive a royal pardon, after European lawmaker Josef Weidenholzer returned from meetings with human rights groups in Riyadh a few months earlier.
But that did not materialize.
Badawi received the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes sentence in January 2015 but there have been no more, following criticism from the European Union, United States, Sweden, Canada, the United Nations and others.