RSF and Giordano Bruno Foundation call for Saudi blogger Raif Badawi’s release

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Germany’s Giordano Bruno Foundation (GBS) call on the Saudi authorities to comply with the terms of the ten-year prison sentence they passed on Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who should have been freed on completing the sentence on 28 February.

The silence from the Saudi authorities is endless. Badawi continues to be detained despite having completed the ten-year prison sentence on a charge of “insulting Islam” that he received on appeal in 2014.

Badawi’s detention was always regarded as arbitrary by RSF, by the Giordano Bruno Foundation, which awarded him its Deschner Prize in 2016, and by many other international organisations. It is now illegal even under Saudi law.

RSF has learned that European Union governments are currently negotiating with the Saudi authorities about his possible release. More than one source has spoken of “encouraging signs” that he could be freed this month.

But the civil society organisations that have campaigned for Badawi are frustrated by the lack of any reaction from Saudi representatives, who have not as yet given any official confirmation or announced a precise date for his release. RSF has repeatedly reached out to the Saudi authorities for an explanation and for news of Badawi, but without success.

"Raif Badawi's continued detention is outrageous, after a 10-year sentence that he never should have been forced to serve," said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. "In keeping him detained now, the Saudi authorities are adding to their long list of crimes against press freedom. Enough is enough - public debates are not crimes, and journalism is not a crime. Badawi must be released without further delay!"

"Many of the reforms that Raif demanded 10 years ago have now been implemented by the Saudi royal family itself," said Giordano Bruno Foundation spokesman Michael Schmidt-Salomon. "We therefore hope that the Saudi authorities recognise this and give Raif the opportunity to finally see his wife and children again after this long time."

The lack of transparency on the part of the Saudi authorities is compounded by a confusion about the calendar used by the Saudi judicial system. The Saudi authorities use the Hijri calendar, also known as the Islamic calendar, instead of the Gregorian calendar used by most countries throughout the world. 

Badawi completed a total of ten Hijri years in prison on 26 Rajab 1443, which is the equivalent of 28 February 2022. But, as he was arrested on 17 June 2012, his release date under the Gregorian calendar would be 17 June 2022.

Saudi Arabia is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 09.03.2022