Montreal

Montrealers rally in support of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi

The event was organized by Amnesty International as part of a global day of action that saw similar protests in London and Berlin.

Event organized by Amnesty International as part of global day of action

A group of Montrealers came out Friday to protest against the incarceration of blogger Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia. (CBC)

About 100 supporters of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi gathered in Montreal to protest against Badawi's incarceration Friday, as part of a global day of action organized by Amnesty International. There were also protests held in Sherbrooke, Quebec City, London and Berlin.

Badawi was arrested in June 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for his criticism of Saudi religious figures.

Since his imprisonment, the blogger's lawyers and allies have been lobbying foreign governments to get them to pressure the Saudi government to secure his release.

Badawi and his former lawyer, Waleed Abulkhair, who is also in prison, have been on hunger strikes to protest against prison conditions. Both were recently transferred to hospital due to their deteriorating health. 

Marisa Berry Mendez, a crisis campaigner with Amnesty International, said G20 countries need to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to secure Raif Badawi's release. (CBC)

Marisa Berry Mendez, a crisis campaigner with Amnesty International, said activists are concerned about the health of the two imprisoned men.

"We know that Waleed was returned to the prison in solitary confinement. We think Raif is still in the hospital," she said.

Berry Mendez said Bedawi has become "emblematic" of the problem in Saudi Arabia, and a symbol for other human rights defenders who are detained.

She said it's up to Canada and other G20 countries to push for the prisoners' release.

Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic ties with Canada and expelled the Canadian ambassador in August 2018, after Canada's Foreign Affairs department tweeted that Canada was "gravely concerned" about the arrest of political activists in Saudi Arabia, including Raif Badawi's sister, Samar Badawi.

Raif Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, and the couple's three children live in Sherbrooke, Que. They were granted political asylum in Canada in 2013.

Sherbrooke residents and local politicians have been steadfast in their support for Haidar and her family, holding more than 180 vigils for Badawi on Fridays over the past five years.

With files from Elias Abboud

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