Raif Badawi, the Saudi who was sentenced last May to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison, and a fine of 1m Rials for “insulting Islam,” has no more legal recourse.
His sentence has been upheld after the country’s Supreme Court reviewed it, a request from King Salman. His only option now is a pardon from King Salman himself, who took power in January after his half-brother, the former king Abdullah, passed away.
Badawi, a symbol of bravery and free speech to many online, was arrested for criticizing the country’s powerful Wahhabi clerics in the blog network he founded in 2008, Free Saudi Liberals. This ultraconverative sect of Salafi clerics have collaborated with, and occasionally clashed with, the House of Saud since Arabia became Saudi in the 1930s.
Badawi was arrested initially in 2012 and his online network was shuttered.
A pardon is “not unlikely, but it will take time,” a source within the kingdom who does not wish to be identified told the Daily Dot. Another source, close to the case, told the AP they do not expect the beating to be carried out.
Badawi, who remains in custody, received the first 50 lashes back in January. The 30-year-old, who is the father of three, did not handle the beatings well, according to his wife, Ensaf Haider, who has fled to Canada with her children.
His second set of 50 lashes was scheduled for today, but appear not to have been carried out yet as of press time. The 1,000 lashes is supposed to be carried out in 20 sets of 50, with at least a week between beatings, in front of the Juffali mosque in the western city of Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia is consistently ranked among the worst when it comes to human rights. But Salman has made a host of changes to kingdom policy and organization since assuming the crown, from the cabinet to the country’s oil company to its succession. One of the changes was an apparent resurgence of the religious police, whose powers the previous king had taken steps to limit. Their power was greatest in the Riyadh province of where Salman was governor.
There are signs that a pardon might take place, said the Saudi source.
“The Saudi foreign ministry today said no official statement from the court or the government has been released on this issue yet, and criticized other countries and human rights groups for being to quick to comment. This suggests something could be in the works.”
Saudi royal pardons have been used to express the king’s largesse, ranging from pardoning the victim of a gang rape to slave soldiers. Salman has begun movements toward pardoning some prisoners as a way of creating goodwill for his new reign.
In the wake of a letter from seven academics and activists to the Saudi ambassador to the United States offering to take some of Badawi’s lashes, a group has started a petition on Change.org seeking to share the blogger’s punishment further. There are currently 1,123 signatories.
Unsurprisingly, the Saudi government registered “dismay” over criticism of the sentence, calling the global condemnation “aggression.”
Photo via Wikimedia Commons