Saudi blogger Raif Badawi still held after completing 10-year jail term

After 10 years of imprisonment, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi should have been released from prison on 28 February, but he continues to be held in Dahaban Central Prison, North of Jeddah. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Saudi authorities to release Badawi immediately and allow him to join his family, who now live in Canada.

UPDATE, 11 March 2022: Raif Badawi has been released. RSF welcomes this decision and shares his relatives' relief. We remain mobilized to ensure that he will stay safe and be able to join his family in Canada despite his 10-year travel ban.

His wife, Ensaf Haidar, had been counting down the days to his release date on Twitter without knowing for sure whether he would be released when the date finally arrived. RSF has contacted the Saudi authorities, but received no immediate answer.

Badawi ran an online forum called Free Saudi Liberals in which he discussed religious and societal issues with exceptional openness. After his arrest in 2012, he was eventually convicted of insulting Islam and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a fine of 1 million riyals and a 10-year ban on leaving the country after completing his jail term.

“Raif Badawi’s continued detention after 10 long years is outrageous. He should never have spent a single day behind bars, and now that he has completed the full sentence based on ludicrous charges, there is no legal basis for the Saudi authorities to continue to hold him. We call for Badawi’s immediate release as an urgent priority, and for him to be granted safe passage from the country to join his family abroad,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

Based in Quebec since 2013, Haidar has never stopped campaigning for her husband’s release. She is now pinning her hopes on Canada, which could grant him Canadian citizenship and thereby facilitate his resettlement.

“The government now has a chance to stand in solidarity with us, alleviate our pain and recognize his singular contribution to the global human rights movement by granting him citizenship and securing his safe passage to be reunited with his family,” Haidar said in a recent tweet.

But Badawi will not be able to leave Saudi Arabia unless the 10-year travel ban is lifted. That is why Haidar has also written to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS) requesting a royal pardon. “Your Royal Highness, I appeal to the father and husband that you are. Our family’s fate is in your hands,” she wrote.

In April 2020, Saudi Arabia announced the abolition of flogging as part of the “Vision 2030” reforms proposed by the crown prince, which also include human rights reforms. Of the 1,000 lashes to which Badawi was sentenced, he received an initial 50 lashes in April 2015. Subsequent sessions were planned but were never carried out.

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

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Updated on 23.03.2022