Quebec-based family of jailed Saudi blogger calls on Ottawa to intervene
Blogger Raif Badawi is in a Saudi prison.
Published Sunday, January 11, 2015 6:38PM EST
The Quebec-based family of a blogger who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in a Saudi prison is asking the Canadian government to intervene in the case, saying denouncing his punishment is not enough.
After being held by Saudi authorities for two years, Raif Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” and criticizing some of the country’s powerful clerics.
Witnesses say Badawi received 50 lashes on Friday in front of hundreds of people following morning prayer in the Port city of Jeddah.
It’s a punishment that he is sentenced to endure once a week for another 19 weeks.
Badawi’s wife, who now lives in Sherbrooke, Que., and Amnesty International are asking the Canadian government to apply diplomatic pressure against Saudi Arabia to stop the floggings.
Ensaf Haider and her three children arrived in Canada as refugees after the Canadian government granted them political asylum in 2013. Haider said she believes Saudi officials are making an example of her husband.
“I’m appalled that Saudi Arabia could condemn the actions of (the Islamic State), and then torture and execute its own citizens,” she told CTV Montreal. “But they can do whatever they want to Raif, they will never break him.”
Her husband’s blog, which gained momentum after the 2011 Arab Spring in the Middle East, asked for more personal freedoms for citizens in the Saudi Arabian kingdom, Haider said.
They are ideas that she believes Canada should support.
In a statement, the Canadian government’s Office for Religious Freedom called for “clemency and mercy” in Badawi’s case.
"The punishment being administered to Mr. Badawi is inhumane and is unbecoming of a society which seeks to advance itself within the family of nations,” the statement said. “Such advancement must be predicated on respect for freedom of religion and other fundamental human rights.”
But Amnesty International, which is working with the family, says denouncing the punishment is not enough.
The organization said Canada should apply diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia or risk Badawi suffering more serious injury or even death.
“Canada has signed the protocol against torture, so it has the obligation to act when it knows that a citizen somewhere in the world is being subjected to torture,” Amnesty International’s Mireille Elchacar told CTV News.
Amnesty International says Saudi officials have confirmed they intend to carry out the second round of floggings next Friday.
Haider said her husband’s absence is taking its toll on her family.
“The most difficult thing is not to be in a different country but for my children to be without their father,” she said.
With a report by CTV Montreal’s Kevin Gallagher and files from The Associated Press