Saudi Blogger Flogging Delayed on Medical Grounds

Following international pressure and citing medical concerns, further punishment against the blogger Raif Badawi, convicted of insulting Islam, has been pushed back.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press
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A screenshot of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.
The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The planned flogging of a Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam has been delayed for a second straight week, a leading international rights group said Thursday, a move that comes amid mounting pressure from Saudi Arabia's Western allies for authorities to cancel the punishment.

The London-based Amnesty International said that around eight doctors carried out medical tests on Raif Badawi, 31, and recommended that he not be flogged this Friday. Saudi authorities postponed his flogging last week after a doctor concluded that his wounds from the first 50 lashes had not yet healed, according to Amnesty.

His public flogging on Jan. 9 in the city of Jiddah led to an outpouring of international condemnation. Both the U.S. State Department and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called on authorities to rescind the punishment. Sweden's Foreign Ministry summoned Saudi Arabia's charge d'affaires on Monday to protest the flogging.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 after writing articles critical of Saudi Arabia's clerics on a liberal blog he created, which has since been shut down. He was found guilty of breaking Saudi Arabia's technology laws and insulting Islamic religious figures through his blog.

He was sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes, but after an appeal the judge stiffened the punishment in May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. Badawi was also fined 1 million Saudi riyals, or roughly $266,000.

Amnesty, which is campaigning for his release, says the lashes were scheduled to be administered over 20 weekly sessions, with 50 lashes each week.

Badawi's wife and three children have moved to Canada.

Souad al-Shammari, who co-founded the blog with Badawi, was detained in October. Amnesty says the mother of six was arrested after being questioned about comments she made on Twitter that allegedly mocked religious texts and authorities, and incited Saudi Arabian women to rebel against the male guardianship system that gives men final say over issues like a woman's ability to travel abroad.

Badawi's lawyer, Waleed Abul-Khair, is serving a 15-year sentence for "undermining regime officials," ''inciting public opinion" and "insulting the judiciary."