January 8, 2015
We are greatly concerned by reports that human rights activist Raif Badawi will start facing the inhumane punishment of a 1,000 lashes, in addition to serving a 10-year sentence in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion. The United States Government calls on Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case and sentence. The United States strongly opposes laws, including apostasy laws, that restrict the exercise of these freedoms, and urges all countries to uphold these rights in practice.
The decision on Sunday by Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court to uphold a cruel sentence imposed on the blogger Raif Badawi last May by the criminal court in Jeddah is tantamount to sentencing Mr. Badawi to a torturous death for the “crime” of free expression. The criminal court sentenced Mr. Badawi, whose case has invited worldwide condemnation, to 1,000 lashes, 50 to be administered “very harshly,” in public, once a week for 20 weeks. In addition, he is to serve 10 years in prison and pay a fine of 1 million riyals, about $267,000.
There is no further appeal possible in the Saudi courts. At this point, Mr. Badawi’s only hope lies in a pardon from King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
You are right to say (Editorial, 8 June) that “Saudi Arabia ought to be treated as a global pariah”, following the decision of its supreme court to uphold the sentence of 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes on Raif Badawi for the crime of expressing the wrong opinions. But there is no sign that this sadistic cruelty is disturbing the close and decades-long friendship between Whitehall and Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia is currently the UK’s largest arms export market. It is a nonsense to claim, as ministers do, that this military cooperation is about nothing more than the Saudis’ right to self-defence. The reason we do not arm Iran, Syria or North Korea is that arms sales are inescapably an expression of political support and commitment to regime survival.
It is time the UK government ceased its support for a Saudi state that terrorises its own people and blatantly violates human rights and fundamental freedoms. Arms sales must end, the British ambassador should be recalled, and key regime figures sanctioned internationally.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom on Tuesday accused Saudi Arabia of handing a “medieval” punishment to Raif Badawi, the blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, AFP reported.
Last week, Saudi Arabia’s supreme court upheld the sentence against Badawi, who ran a site called Free Saudi Liberals and has been in custody since 2012.
“My opinion is that it’s a medieval sentence. It’s a medieval method that does not have its place in a society that allows a free media and allows people to express their point of view,” Wallstrom was quoted by AFP as having told Swedish Radio.
Social Democrat Gabriel told reporters in Riyadh after his meeting with King Salman that Raif Badawi’s situation was affecting his diplomatic and trade mission to the Gulf powerhouse.
“I think everything we are doing is helping him, but no one – not even the family – thinks that there will be a quick solution,” Gabriel said.
Ahead of the meeting, Gabriel had said he would point out to the king that the severity of Badawi’s punishment of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes is “unfathomable to us and that it will of course strain bilateral ties.” He added that he also called for the release of Badawi’s lawyer, who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The current as well as the former minister of foreign affairs, John Baird, have both condemned the sentencing of Mr Badawi, as have many other Western governments and rights groups. However, the office of Prime Minister Harper has been saying for months that it is “limited in its actions” that Badawi is not a Canadian citizen.
Wealthy Saudis are the primary sponsors of sunni terrorist groups like al Qaeda. The wealthy and the powerful in a country that’s named after one family are, presumably, the same group of people.