Raif Badawi: National Assembly lends support to Saudi blogger

The government of Quebec is once again calling for the release of Raif Badawi.

Badawi sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes

Raif Badawi could face 1,000 lashes if his sentence is carried out. (Amnesty International Canada)

The government of Quebec is once again calling for the release of Raif Badawi.

The National Assembly unanimously passed a motion condemning the whipping of Badawi, and expressing support for his wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children.

The motion calls on the governments of Quebec and Canada to do everything possible to secure Badawi’s freedom.

"We will not put our arms down. The democratic world has to say loud and clear that we don't want those practices to go again without any notice from the rest of the world," said Premier Philippe Couillard.

Haidar, as well as some of Badawi’s supporters, watched the debate as it happened.

The premier has brought up the case directly with Saudi Arabian ambassador to Canada.

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  never attacked Islam and that his blog was only intended to provide a forum for open debate.

Badawi received his first 50 lashings in a public square after morning prayers in January 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.

Other lashings have so far been postponed.

Pressure mounts on Saudi Arabia

The case has sparked international outcry and widespread protest.

There have been numerous demonstrations across Quebec, asking for Badawi's release.

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.