Raif Badawi the blogger from Saudi Arabia continues to face as long as a decade in prison and as many a 950 lashes simply for calling for free speech. So far the British government has failed to ask for Mr. Badawi’s freedom. We need to step up and demand that our government speak on Mr. Badawi’s behalf as he has effectively been silenced.
British government response has been muted
Amnesty International is pressuring the British government to call for Mr. Badawi’s release but has so far been met with a muted response. The government has only said that they disagree with Mr. Badawi’s public torture. The government is well aware of the case. David Cameron, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond amongst other government ministers have all condemned the public flogging of Mr. Badawi when the issue was put to them.
David Cameron visited Saudi Arabia and said nothing
This however is far from difficult because the UK as a policy condemns torture and corporal punishment. It needs to go further and Amnesty International is calling on the UK government to speak out not just about the punishment, but the so called “crime” with which Mr. Badawi is charged and call for his freedom. Recently David Cameron undertook a state visit to Saudi Arabia to offer condolences following the death of the country’s king, King Abdullah. Whilst the Prime Minister praised the late king he failed to make any statement on the many human rights abuses committed by the king’s government.
1000 lashes is the punishment
Mr. Badawi is a prisoner of conscience and was imprisoned simply for calling for free speech. He was lashed in public 50 times at the beginning of January and remains in prison awaiting the next set of 50 lashes. The authorities in Saudi Arabia intend to flog him once a week after every Friday prayers until he has been lashed a total of 1,000 times.
Calling for free speech is a crime
Mr. Badawi’s sentence is the result of his website ‘Saudi Arabian Liberals’ which he created to serve as a forum for both social and political debate. Mr. Badawi was arrested in June 2012 and was found guilty of breaking Saudi Arabian laws and insulting Islamic figures by creating the online forum. He was sentenced to a fine of 1 million Saudi Riyal (over a quarter of a million US dollars), 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison and has been banned from using any kind of media or travelling until 2034.
Over a million people have signed a petition
As a result of public condemnation and international outcry, over a million people have now signed Amnesty Internationals petition urging Saudi Arabia to free Mr. Badawi. So far however the authorities in Saudi Arabia have refused to release him and as a result Amnesty International is urging the UK government to apply more pressure on the Saudi authorities and secure his release.