Pressure is mounting on the Canadian government to intervene on behalf of a Quebec woman’s journalist husband who is facing 1,000 lashes in Saudi Arabia.
Raif Badawi has been in a Saudi jail since 2012 on charges that include insulting Islam, ridiculing religious authorities and setting up a liberal website.
The charges stem from an online forum curated by Badawi called Saudi Arabian Liberals.
Badawi was initially sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes.
An appeal saw Badawi’s case sent to the General Court in Jeddah, where a judge wanted to charge him with apostasy — which carries the death penalty.
Instead, the court increased Badawi’s sentence to 10 years, 1,000 lashes and a fine of one million Saudi riyals, or nearly $287,000.
He has until September to file an appeal of the increased sentence.
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children fled Saudi Arabia for Lebanon because of threats to their safety prior to Badawi’s arrest.
She and her children came to Canada six months ago and now live in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said Haidar’s arrival in Quebec has attracted Canadian interest in her husband, whom Neve calls a prisoner of conscience.
“It gives us now a much stronger connection to the case and certainly has really motivated Amnesty activists, particularly in Quebec,” Neve told CBC News.
So far, however, that interest is not moving the Canadian government to take stronger action in defence of Badawi, Neve said.
Meanwhile, Haidar says her husband’s health has deteriorated in prison.
Neve said Amnesty International Canada wants Canada to put more pressure on Saudi authorities for Badawi’s release.