Montreal

Wife of Raif Badawi furious after Ottawa suggests asking for his father's pardon

The wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi said she's outraged by a suggestion from the Canadian government to ask for her father-in-law's help, saying that he asked for Badawi to be convicted.

Saudi blogger was arrested in June 2012 after criticizing the Saudi regime

Ensaf Haidar said the federal government's suggestion that she reach out to her father-in-law to help secure Raif Badawi's release is 'unbelievable.' (Radio-Canada)

The wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi said she's outraged by a suggestion from the Canadian government that she ask her father-in-law for help in hope of securing the release of her husband.

Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Quebec, said MP and parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Omar Alghabra suggested on Thursday that she contact her father-in-law and request that he write a letter of pardon for his imprisoned son.

Haidar said that would be a futile exercise because her father-in-law no longer has anything to do with the case and no longer has any influence.

Badawi, an author of a blog about human rights and social change, was arrested in June 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his criticism of the Saudi regime.

His offences included creating an online forum for public debate, insulting Islam and parental disobedience, which is punishable crime in Saudi Arabia.

Badawi's father is one of his most outspoken opponents and has reportedly gone on TV to denounce his son's website.

Haidar said the suggestion to reach out to her father-in-law is "unbelievable" and claimed the federal government is "doing nothing for Raif."

"I'm still searching for words," she said. "It's not normal — I am angry."

The conversation followed nearly two weeks after Haidar said she was hopeful her husband could soon be free under new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

She said she got word from a European Parliament delegation that Badawi was on "a list of people who would be forgiven by the king — but we don't know when."

Alghabra, for his part, said that he contacted Haidar with the suggestion in hopes of being one step closer to securing Badawi's release.

"I proactively reached out yesterday afternoon to Ms. Haidar proposing, or just throwing out an idea because we really don't want to leave any stone unturned," he said.

The decision to reach out to Badawi's father in Saudi Arabia is entirely up to Haidar and the Canadian government will support her regardless of what she chooses to do, he added.
Ensaf Haidar holds up a sign of her husband, Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, at a protest. (Thomas Daigle/CBC)

"It's not the only idea we've been pursuing," he said.

"But I think given what Mr. Badawi is going through, I think we should at least consider all options but it's totally up to Ms. Haidar what she wants to do and what she chooses to do."

Mohamed Ourya, a part-time professor at the school of politics of Sherbrooke University, said that while the request may seem strange, in cases of political prisoners, rational and legal arguments are not always the most effective.

He argues that Haidar should follow the government's suggestion and reach out to her father-in-law, even if she believes it will do nothing.

"It has to be done," he said. "To bring back Raif Badawi, it has to be done with the means at hand."

While Haider said she will not write to her father-in-law, she subsequently added that she would if it was part of a guaranteed deal to secure Badawi's release. 

She also said she is willing to write to Saudi's Crown prince and king on behalf of Badawi's release.

She remains hopeful that her husband will be liberated in 2018.

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to add more information about Ensaf Haidar's reaction to the Canadian government's request that she ask her father-in-law to write a letter of pardon for her husband, Raif Badawi. We have added her contention that she would write to her father-in-law if it was part of a deal for Badawi's release, but otherwise she sees it as a futile exercise because her father-in-law is no longer involved in the case.
    Jan 24, 2018 4:46 PM ET

With files from CBC's Sarah Leavitt, Rebecca Martel and Radio-Canada

now