On the third anniversary of Raif Badawi’s arrest, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz to demonstrate clemency and pardon this young blogger.
Badawi has been detained since 17 June 2012 for creating an online discussion forum. The sentence passed on him after a series of unfair trials – 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – was upheld by the supreme court ten days ago. There is no longer any way of obtaining his release by means of an appeal. Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, told RSF she was so saddened and upset by the anniversary that she was “incapable of describing” how she felt. She reiterated her appeal to the king to pardon her husband – an appeal supported by RSF. “With the month of Ramadan newly under way, we ask King Salman bin Abdulaziz to show clemency and pardon Raif Badawi, the father of three children, as this is now the only way to free him,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “This young Saudi has already been held for three years in deplorable conditions and is in very poor health. His immediate release is vital.” Discretionary justice Reached by RSF, Saudi human rights activist Hala Al-Dosari attributed Badawi’s continuing detention to the flaws in Saudi Arabia’s judicial system. “The biggest problem in Saudi Arabia is the fact that criminal law is exclusively based on the Sharia, which is in fact discretionary,” she said, adding that the Badawi case is a clear example of how the punishments imposed by the judicial system are incompatible with international standards. “The international community’s support and diplomatic efforts can help, because this has an impact on the Saudi authorities,” she said. In the eyes of the Saudi justice system, Badawi is guilty according to sharia and he was convicted above all of breaking its rules. The three years he has spent in prison is already more than adequate as punishment for what he was accused of doing. It is time to free him. RSF has been campaigning for months for the release of Badawi, who was awarded its press freedom prize in 2014 in the Netizen category. A petition for his release launched by RSF already has more than 46,000 signatures. In a joint initiative with its national sections and foreign bureaux, RSF also sent letters to heads of state and government urging them to intercede with the Saudi authorities on Badawi’s behalf. Recipients included US President Barack Obama, French President François Hollande and Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy. The Saudi authorities tolerate no independent media outlets and have been steadily tightening their grip on the Internet since the Arab spring in 2011. Online information is closely controlled and the regime does not hesitate to use security grounds and a draconian cyber-crime law to jail bloggers.