Amnesty International is urging the UK government to demand the freedom of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi. Unfortunately so far the government has responded with a muted response, saying only that they disagree with the public torture of Mr. Badawi. Many government ministers have condemned the public flogging of Mr. Badawi when the issue was put to them, however this was the least they could do given the UK has a policy of condemning torture and corporal punishment.
UK government must speak out
Amnesty International wants the government to more than speak out about the punishment, but also wants it to address the crime with which Mr. Badawi is charged and call for his freedom. David Cameron paid a visit to Saudi Arabia after the death of the Saudi king. Whilst Mr. Cameron praised the leadership of the late king he failed to make any mention of the many human rights abuses committed by the regime.
Mr. Badawi is a prisoner of conscience and was imprisoned simply for advocating for free speech. On the 9th of January he was lashed 50 times and continues to remain in jail awaiting his next set of lashes. The authorities in Saudi Arabia intend to publicly flog Mr. Badawi on a weekly basis until he has received 1000 lashes.
Freedom of speech
The reason for the sentence is Mr. Badawi’s conviction for creating the Saudi Arabian Liberals website which he saw as a platform for political and social debate. He was first arrested in June 2012 and was subsequently convicted of breaking Saudi Arabia’s strict technology laws and insulting Islam in May 2014. Mr. Badawi received a ten year prison sentence, 1,000 lashes and a fine that exceeded a quarter of a million US dollars.
The UK has the chance to make a difference
Despite public condemnation and an international outcry with over a million people signing the Amnesty International petition demanding that Saudi Arabia free Mr. Badawi, authorities in that country have refused to release him. The UK government must use its influence as a key trading partner and publicly speak out about the case and call for his release.