Saudis said to review blogger's flogging case in Supreme Court

Political stakes over Raif Badawi's case, which included a charge of insulting Islam, have been heightened by the Paris attack
Saudis said to review blogger's flogging case in Supreme Court
By Reuters
Sat 17 Jan 2015 01:37 AM

The case of a Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, which has been widely criticised by Western governments, has been referred to the Supreme Court by the King's office, the BBC reported on Friday.

Raif Badawi was flogged 50 times last week but a second round of lashings due on Friday was postponed for what a source told Reuters were medical reasons.

Political stakes over Badawi's case, which included a charge of insulting Islam, have been heightened by the Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo newspaper and its subsequent publication of more cartoons featuring Islam's Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).

In a brief newsbreak without quotes, the BBC said Badawi's wife had told it the decision had given the blogger hope that the authorities want to end his punishment.

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.

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