Saudi Arabia announced its decision to abolish flogging on 26 April in an attempt to bring itself more into line with international human rights standards.
The decision directly affects Badawi, who will now be spared the remaining 950 of the 1,000 lashes to which he was sentenced on a charge of insulting Islam. He received the first 50 lashes in April 2015 and was due to receive the next 50 lashes in June of the same year. But the second and subsequent sessions were postponed under international pressure.
“Knowing that all remaining flogging sessions have been cancelled and not just postponed will be an enormous relief but Raif Badawi continues to be subjected to a living hell and still has two more years to serve in prison,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “As he approaches the end of his eighth year in detention on 18 June, releasing him as well as all the other journalists arbitrarily detained would allow Saudi Arabia to move forward with these reforms.”
Information about his conditions in detention are vague and contradictory. According to leaks, he was placed in isolation last December and was taken to hospital in March because he was on a hunger strike. But the Saudi authorities and prison officials have never confirmed or denied these reports.
Even more disturbingly, his contacts with the outside world are infrequent and often interrupted. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, says that he told her during a phone call two weeks ago that he would henceforth be allowed to contact her twice a week. But she has not heard from him since then. Their most recent previous phone call was in February.
Saudi Arabia is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.