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Corpun file 25840 at www.corpun.com
Mail Online (web only), London, 8 January 2015
Blogger sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes set to be publicly flogged in Saudi Arabia for 'insulting Islam'
By Jenny Awford for MailOnline
A Saudi blogger will be publicly flogged tomorrow as part of his 10-year jail term for 'ridiculing Islamic religious figures'.
Raif Badawi, who co-founded the Free Saudi Liberals website, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and a decade in prison for insulting Islam on his online forum.
His corporal punishment will be carried out after Friday prayers, outside the Al-Juffali mosque in Jiddah, which has earned the grisly nickname 'Chop Chop Square' as the site of executions.
The online activist was found guilty of cyber-crime in May last year and ordered by the Jiddah Criminal Court to pay a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals, or about £175,900.
He was also charged with apostasy, which carries the death penalty in the Saudi Kingdom, but he was cleared of this crime in 2013.
Badawi called his family from prison and informed them of the flogging, according to the Associated Press.
Amnesty International said Badawi would receive 50 lashes on Friday and the rest of the sentence would be carried out over a period of 50 weeks.
'It is horrifying to think that such a vicious and cruel punishment should be imposed on someone who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression,' said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director.
He will be publicly flogged tomorrow as part of his 10-year jail term for 'ridiculing Islamic religious figures'
A whip, a leather strap or a long cane may be used to carry out floggings in Saudi Arabia, according to corpun.com, a website dedicated to the study of corporal punishment.
'Sometimes the lashes are confined to the buttocks, more often it seems they are spread out from the neck to the ankles, and usually with the prisoner simply lying face down on the ground.
'In one or two reports the offender was said to be tied upright to a post,' said corpun.com.
Badawi was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes, but after an appeal, the judge stiffened the punishment.
Following his arrest, his wife and children left the kingdom for Canada.
Badawi's lawyer Waleed Abul-Khair was sentenced in July to 15 years imprisonment and barred from traveling for another 15 years after being found guilty by an anti-terrorism court of 'undermining the regime and officials,' 'inciting public opinion' and 'insulting the judiciary.'
Saudi Arabia's legal code follows Sharia Muslim law.
Judges are trained as religious scholars and have broad scope to base verdicts and sentences on their own interpretation of religious texts.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd
Corpun file 25843 at www.corpun.com
The Guardian (web only), London, 10 January 2015
Saudi blogger receives first 50 lashes of sentence for 'insulting Islam'
Raif Badawi has been given 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes to be carried out over 20 weeks
Associated Press in Dubai
A Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam was brought after Friday prayers to a public square in the port city of Jeddah and flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators, a witness to the lashing said.
The witness said Raif Badawi's feet and hands were shackled during the flogging but his face was visible. He remained silent and did not cry out, said the witness, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity fearing government reprisal.
Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia's powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. The blog has since been shut down. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1m riyals or about $266,600.
Rights activists say Saudi authorities are using Badawi's case as a warning to others who think to criticise the kingdom's powerful religious establishment from which the ruling family partly derives its authority.
London-based Amnesty International said he would receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks. The US, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, has called on authorities to cancel the punishment.
Despite international pleas for his release, Badawi, a father of three, was brought from prison by bus to the public square on Friday and flogged on the back in front of a crowd that had just finished midday prayers at a nearby mosque. His face was visible and, throughout the flogging, he clenched his eyes and remained silent, said the witness.
The witness, who also has close knowledge of the case, said the lashing lasted about 15 minutes.
Badawi has been held since mid-2012 after he founded the Free Saudi Liberals blog. He used it to criticise the kingdom's influential clerics who follow a strict, conservative interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism, which originated in Saudi Arabia.
He was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in relation to the charges, but after an appeal the judge stiffened the punishment. Following his arrest, his wife and children left the kingdom for Canada.
Rights groups argue that the case against Badawi is part of a wider crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent in Saudi Arabia since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Criticism of clerics is seen as a red line because of their prestige in the kingdom, as well as their influential role in supporting government policies.
According to Amnesty the charges against Badawi mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website. He was also accused in court of ridiculing Saudi Arabia's morality police.
In a statement after the flogging Amnesty called it a "vicious act of cruelty" and said Badawi's "only 'crime' was to exercise his right to freedom of expression by setting up a website for public discussion".
The US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the punishment an "inhumane" response to someone exercising his right to freedom of expression and religion.
In New York, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary general, told reporters on Friday that the UN human rights office was "very concerned about the flogging" and had previously raised concerns about harsh sentences in Saudi Arabia for human rights defenders.
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
RELATED VIDEO CLIP
A 30-second glimpse of the last dozen or so of Raif Badawi's 50 lashes, bravely and surreptitiously filmed from within the crowd. A loudspeaker is heard ordering onlookers not to take pictures. At the end of the punishment, Badawi is led away as the mob shouts its approval. The implement appears to be some kind of flexible thin cane, but this is not a caning in the British or Singapore sense: the strokes are rapid-fire and quite light, and distributed randomly over the back and legs. The recipient, in a white shirt and dark trousers, is not fixed to anything but is just standing up straight, his hands held by an official. It is not clear how the whole ceremony could have lasted 15 minutes, as claimed in the above news report, when the last 12 strokes took less than 30 seconds.
HERE IS THE CLIP:
Corpun file 25880 at www.corpun.com
Huddersfield Examiner, UK, 21 January 2015, p.8
UK condemns blogger flogging
FOREIGN Secretary Philip Hammond has condemned the flogging of a Saudi blogger, adding he will raise the case with the country's deputy foreign minister.
Mr Hammond told MPs Britain deplores Raif Badawi's punishment, adding the UK has made its views known to the Saudi authorities "at the highest level".
He added he will speak directly about the issue when Saudi Arabia's deputy foreign minister visits London.
Mr Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.
He was convicted of insulting Islam after he criticised Saudi Arabia's powerful clerics on the liberal blog he founded.
In his first public flogging, the father-of-three was taken to a public square, whipped on his back and legs, and taken back to prison.
Amnesty International reported the Saudi authorities postponed the second round of 50 lashes, citing medical reasons.
Answering shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander in the Commons, Mr Hammond said: "We deplore this punishment, we deplore the use of corporal punishment in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
"But we've found in the past the best way of influencing Saudi behaviour is to message them privately through the many channels we have available."
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