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Fri 16 Jan 2015 04:37 PM

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Saudi Arabia postpones activist's flogging, says Amnesty

Amnesty International says public flogging of activist and blogger Raif Badawi postponed on medical grounds

Saudi Arabia postpones activist's flogging, says Amnesty

Saudi Arabia has postponed Friday's public flogging of activist and blogger Raif Badawi on medical grounds, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Badawi was subjected to the first 50 lashes a week ago and was due to be flogged again after Friday prayers, although Saudi authorities had come under Western pressure to call off the punishment.

Political stakes over Badawi's case, which included a charge of insulting Islam, have been heightened by theParis attack on Charlie Hebdo newspaper and its subsequent publication of more cartoons lampooning Islam's Prophet Mohammad.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International said in a statement that a medical examination found that Badawi's earlier "wounds had not yet healed properly and that he would not be able to withstand another round of lashes at this time."

The doctor who carried out the medical check-up recommended that the flogging be postponed until next week,Amnesty said, adding "it is unclear whether the authorities will fully comply with this demand."

Badawi, who set up the "Free Saudi Liberals" website, was arrested in June 2012 for offences which also included cyber crime and disobeying his father - a crime in Saudi Arabia.

The prosecution had demanded he be tried for apostasy, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but a judge dismissed that charge.

He was sentenced last year to 10 years in jail, a fine of 1 million riyals ($267,000) and 1,000 lashes after prosecutors challenged an earlier sentence of seven years and 600 lashes as too lenient.

The United States has called on Riyadh last week to cancel the sentence of 1,000 lashes.

On Thursday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also called on Saudi Arabia to stop the serial flogging of Badawi.

"Flogging is in my view at very least a form of cruel and inhuman punishment," High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement from his Geneva office. As such, it was banned under international rights law, he added.

"I appeal to the King of Saudi Arabia to exercise his power to halt the public flogging by pardoning Mr Badawi, and to urgently review this type of extraordinary harsh penalty," said Zeid, a former Jordanian diplomat.