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Blogger flogged: eyewitness account; Amnesty petition; please sign

Photo from Amnesty

Another 50 lashes to be administered today, 16 January, after Friday prayers. And 18 more Fridays to look forward to, at the start of a 10 year prison sentence. His crime? Creating the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” website and “insulting Islam”.

Sign the Amnesty petition calling for his release here.

Raif Badawi is an Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience, who has been found guilty of “disrespect” and “disobedience;” I have discussed his case here and here.

Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes after starting a website for social and political debate in Saudi Arabia. He was charged with creating the ‘Saudi Arabian Liberals’ website and insulting Islam. His sentence also included 1,000 lashes, a 10-year travel ban, a million-Riyal fine and a ban on appearing on media outlets.

Aikenhead award

The award, named in memory of Thomas Aikenhead who was hanged in Edinburgh for blasphemy on 8 January 1697, shows human fingers making their way through granite

Badawi has been awarded the One Humanity Award 2014 From PEN Canada, the Netizen Prize of Reporters without Borders 2014, and the inaugural Thomas Aikenhead Award of the Scottish Secular Society (after checking with his wife, who lives as a political refugee in Canada, that this would not be unwise). The charges against him relate to articles Raif wrote criticising religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, as well as pieces written by others which were published on his website.

Amnesty reports: Someone present at Raif Badawi’s public flogging on 9 January described this account of Raif’s flogging for us. The witness has not been identified for security reasons.

‘When the worshippers saw the police van outside the mosque, they knew someone would be flogged today.

They gathered in a circle. Passers-by joined them and the crowd grew. But no one knew why the man brought forward was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray?

Raif Badawi had been brought to the square in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah just after midday. There was a huge security presence – not just accompanying Raif but also in the streets and around the mosque. Some roads had also been closed.

Raif was escorted from a bus and placed in the middle of the crowd, guarded by eight or nine officers. He was handcuffed and shackled but his face was not covered – everyone could see his face.

Still shackled, Raif stood up in the middle of the crowd. He was dressed in a pair of trousers and a shirt.

A security officer approached him from behind with a huge cane and started beating him.

Raif raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arching his back. He was silent, but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain.

The officer beat Raif on his back and legs, counting the lashes until they reached 50.

The punishment took about 5 minutes. It was very quick, with no break in between lashes.

When it was over, the crowd shouted, “Allah-hu Akbar! Allah-hu Akbar!” – as if Raif had been purified.

Raif was taken away in the bus, back to prison. The whole scene had lasted less than half an hour.’

[What can I add except to say that yes, this is blasphemy, but it is not Badawi who is the blasphemer]

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