Raif Badawi flogging case to be reviewed by Saudi Arabia: report

The sentence of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi - whose wife and three children settled in Sherbrooke, Que., as refugees - has been referred to the country's Supreme Court for review by the king's office, according to a report

Wife who lives in Sherbrooke, Que., among those calling for his release

Protesters held a rally in Montreal last Thursday calling for Raif Badawi's freedom. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The sentence of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi has been referred to the country's Supreme Court for review by the king's office, according to a media report.

Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Sherbrooke, Que., told BBC News the decision by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah makes her hopeful authorities want to end his punishment.

The development comes after a second round of lashings scheduled for Friday were postponed for medical reasons, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights group reported that Badawi was removed from his jail cell on Friday morning and taken to the prison clinic for a medical checkup before his sentence was due to be carried out.

"The doctor concluded that the wounds had not yet healed properly and that he would not be able to withstand another round of lashes at this time," Amnesty International said.

"He recommended that the flogging should be postponed until next week. It is unclear whether the authorities will fully comply with this demand."

Said Boumedouha of Amnesty International said the postponement underlines the brutal nature of the lashings.

"The notion that Raif Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous," Boumedouha said.

Blog intended as forum for debate

Badawi, author of a blog about human rights and social change, was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of one million Saudi Arabian riyals (about $315,000 Cdn). 

Haidar and their three children feared for their safety in Saudi Arabia after his arrest and eventually settled in Sherbrooke, Que., as refugees.

Badawi's offences included creating an online forum for public debate, insulting Islam and parental disobedience.

It is a crime to disobey your father in Saudi Arabia. Badawi's father reportedly went on TV to denounce his son's website.

Badawi and Haidar have said he never attacked Islam and that his blog was only intended to provide a forum for open debate.
Protesters gather at a protest for Saudi blogger Raif Badawi in Montreal. (Thomas Daigle/CBC)

Badawi received his first 50 lashings in a public square after morning prayers a week ago in the port city of Jeddah, Amnesty International reported.

The flogging has been set to be carried out over a period of 20 weeks, the group said.

Pressure mounts on Saudi Arabia

The case has sparked international outcry and widespread protest. 

Demonstrations were scheduled for Friday outside Quebec's National Assembly and in Sherbrooke.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, has called on Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to pardon him. The United States has also asked Saudi Arabia to cancel the 1,000 lashes.

Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs has called the sentence a "violation of human dignity," but said its involvement in the case is limited by the fact Badawi isn't a Canadian citizen.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the prime minister should speak out.

"Canada must make every effort to guarantee his release, allow him to return home to his family and to prevent him from being subjected to this horrible punishment simply for having expressed his opinion," Mulcair said in a letter addressed to Stephen Harper.


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