Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger who was sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes, of which he received the first 50 in January 2015, as reported by the Inquisitr, is said to have received a suspended sentence and a “royal pardon” from Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, according to the CBC.
The Saudi blogger was first charged for his writing that was reported to be critical of clerics in his home country in 2012. The Saudi government was said to have ordered his receipt of the lashing punishment in 50-lash portions, dealt out over 20 weeks. Badawi was also fined $266,000.
It was deemed that Raif Badawi would not be able to survive receiving 1,000 lashes at once. Those who made this decision probably spared his life, because Badawi was reported to have barely survived the first 50.
Raif Badawi was said to be injured so badly that his captors, who initially sentenced him to a sure death sentence of 1,000 lashes, relented and postponed further punishment.
In June, it was reported that the blogger’s lashes were to set to restart, only to be postponed again.
Early today, news came that the Swiss government has been informed that Badawi’s sentence was suspended by Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The news quickly spread on social media.
Omg this is amazing news! WHAT! ! :D https://t.co/aycxQNzI97— Eiynah -- (@NiceMangos) November 28, 2015
I've heard #RaifBadawi is to be pardoned. Please let it be true— Aliyah Saleem (@Ali_Jones89) November 28, 2015
“I was informed that the sentence was suspended,” Swiss Secretary of State Yves Rossier was quoted by RTS. The French-language newspaper reports that Badawi has been given “a royal pardon.”
Amnesty International is said to still have concerns about Badawi’s future. A representative of the group’s Canadian arm stated that they are still worried about whether or not Badawi will be permitted to leave Saudi Arabia and join his family in Quebec, Canada. Raif Badawi’s wife and children live in Sherbrooke. The last update on the blogger’s condition led them to believe that his “health and morale were suffering.”
“I would like for Mr. Trudeau to work on (the file), talk to Saudi Arabian government officials directly and ask that Raif be released from prison,” Badawi’s wife Haidar was quoted in early November. “I hope soon Raif will be free with us.”
Raif Badawi was chosen as the 2015 recipient of Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded by the European Parliament. Past winners include Nelson Mandela, Denis Mukwege, and Kofi Annan.
Saudi Arabia is notorious for its use of capital punishment. In 2015, 151 state-ordered executions have taken place, said to be the most in any year since 1995, when 192 were carried out.
People have protested the arrest, imprisonment, and punishment of blogger Raif Badawi in demonstrations around the world. In early November, Canadian supporters of Badawi were reportedly met with “closed doors” at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Ottawa after a group had sent the diplomats 31,000 letters demanding Badawi’s release, according to the Globe and Mail.
A representative with Amnesty International then described the refusal of the Saudi embassy to open doors and meet with representatives about Badawi’s case as “disappointing ” and “alarming.”
Perhaps the news from the Swiss government can be seen as a sign that Saudi Arabia is set to make reforms in its treatment of peaceful political dissidents exercising a right that is seen as fundamentally human by a majority of the world.
Another Saudi Arabia political dissident, Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, has been sentenced to be crucified and beheaded. In September, it was believed that his execution was imminent. Most recent reports indicate that al-Nimr is still alive. France TV Info states that an online petition demanding the freeing of al-Nimr attracted over 1 million signatures. If Raif Badawi’s release is an indication of a shift in Saudi policy, perhaps there is hope for Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr.
[Feature Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images]