Pressure May Be Helping Raif Badawi

Mounting pressure on the Saudi government to end its barbaric punishment of atheist blogger Raif Badawi, led by the Center for Inquiry and other secular and human rights groups, might be having the desired effect. He was supposed to receive the second set of 50 lashes (the sentence was for 1000 lashes) last Friday but it was postponed and the case was referred to the nation’s high court.

Last Friday, Badawi received the first 50 of his 1,000-lash sentence in front of a large crowd at the Al-Jafali mosque in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah. He was due to receive the next fifty lashes of his sentence on Friday this week, but the beatings have been suspended until next week as he is not medically fit for more lashes, doctors have ruled.

“Not only does this postponement on health grounds expose the utter brutality of this punishment, it underlines its outrageous inhumanity,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa program.

“The notion that Raif Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous.”

There is, however, some hope for 31-year-old Badawi. His wife Ensaf Haidar, who is now living in Canada with their three children, told the BBC that Abdullah ibn Abdilazīz, the King of Saudi Arabia, has referred her husband’s case to the country’s Supreme Judicial Council for review.

Good news, if it means a reprieve or reduction in sentence for Badawi. But he’s going to need a new legal adviser – because his former lawyer (and brother-in-law) Waleed Abu al-Khair was sentenced to more time prison by the Saudi authorities this week.

But the pressure is ratcheting up. A group of 18 Nobel laureates have written a letter to Saudi academics asking them to speak out against this barbarism and in favor of free expression. Eight U.S. Senators have written a letter to King Abdullah asking him to commute the sentence. That letter is quite blunt, calling the flogging a “barbaric punishment.” How sad that only eight senators signed it. It should have been unanimous.

But this action might — emphases on might — be having an effect. I certainly hope it forces the Saudi government to reconsider the sentence and even to release Badawi and allow him to join his family in Canada.

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  • Crimson Clupeidae

    Meanwhile, they still regularly behead people, and probably other, less prominent people are still getting lashes.

  • colnago80

    The Saudi Government is really quite atrocious. However, compared to the ISIL, they are angels.

  • mkoormtbaalt

    The common answer when asked about this sort of behavior is that it comes down to immorality. Freedom of expression is simply a form of oppression where you can force your beliefs on others. Isn’t it better that people only express a common idea or thought in public so as to better work with one another? Commuting the sentence would also be bad for it might tempt people to perform this immoral act. If you think about it, pressuring the Saudi’s to not do this is immoral in itself – we should not speak out against Allah’s law in this way.

  • eric

    Isn’t it better that people only express a common idea or thought in public so as to better work with one another?

    Would you agree to live under that rule if *I* get to define what counts as “a common idea?” Fair warning: it won’t be

    the ideas you necessarily agree with.

    If you answer is “no,” then join us in supporting free speech. Every idea is outside somebody’s definition of “a common idea.”

  • eric

    Commuting the sentence would also be bad for it might tempt people to perform this immoral act.

    Which immoral act are you referring to? The fact he was self-described Saudi liberal, or the fact that his existence made people aware that there are Saudi liberals?

  • mkoormtbaalt

    If you answer is “no,” then join us in supporting free speech. Every idea is outside somebody’s definition of “a common idea.”

    I agree with you. I support free speech. I have had extensive experience with people from Saudi Arabia and have had many conversations with them. Their perspective about why everything is different is that it always comes down to morality. Their way is how they preserve morality and our way is why we are decadent and will eventually falter. I think it’s a load of baloney, but it’s what they say.

  • Michael Heath

    Seven Democratic Senators and One Republican to parse them out by party (PDF): http://goo.gl/jLBbss.

  • dannorth

    @mkoormtbaalt

    “Their way is how they preserve morality and our way is why we are decadent and will eventually falter. ”

    Did you ever get any explanation on how the way they treat their migrant workers is moral?