Stop Raif Badawi from being flogged for blogging
Update: 11am, Friday 9 January
Raif Badawi was publicly lashed 50 times after Friday prayers today. Handcuffed and shackled, Raif was led to a square in front of the al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah, watched by a crowd. He was lashed on his back 50 times in just five minutes.
'Everyone could see his face... A security officer approached him from behind with a huge cane and started beating him. Raif raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arching his back. He was silent, but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain.
'The officer beat Raif on his back and legs, counting the lashes until they reached 50. When it was over, the crowd shouted, “Allah-hu Akbar! Allah-hu Akbar!” – as if Raif had been purified.'
Eyewitness account of Raif's beating
Saudi authorities now plan to go through this same routine every week after Friday prayers for a total of 20 weeks, until Raif has been dealt 1,000 lashes - all because he advocated free speech.
On Weds Saudi Arabia condemned #CharlieHebdo as 'cowardly attack'. Today they flogged Raif Badawi for encouraging free speech.
— Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) January 9, 2015
Add your name to our petition calling on Saudi Arabia to stop the flogging:
Text HALT followed by your first and last name to 70505
Early this morning, we faxed petitions with over 3,800 signatures (signed via text in the past 12 hours) to authorities in Saudi Arabia who could have stopped the flogging - as well as the Saudi Ambassador to the UK.
Our Director Kate Allen sent a telegram to the King and Prime Minister, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, asking him to step in and stop the flogging - and to release Raif.
While the henious act has been committed, we will continue to condemn both Raif's punishment and his sentence. We'll continue to fax more petitions to the same authorities, to let them know that Raif has the support of many people outside of Saudi Arabia - and we'll continue to fight for his freedom.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) January 9, 2015
8pm, Thursday 8 January
Just after Friday prayers in Jeddah at midday tomorrow – 9am here – Raif Badawi will be led out into the square overlooked by al-Jafali mosque and numerous government buildings. Crowds will watch as Raif, his hands tied, is flogged on his back. The lashes will keep going – up to 50 times. Then he will be led away. It will be repeated in a couple of weeks.
All this because Raif advocated free speech in Saudi Arabia, where speaking out is incredibly dangerous.
Ask Saudi Arabia not to flog Raif:
Text HALT followed by your first and last name to 70505
Orders to 'be lashed severely'
Urgent: it is confirmed that #RaifBadawi will be lashed tomorrow. The lashing order says Raif should 'be lashed severely'
— رائف بدوي (@raif_badawi) January 8, 2015
This afternoon, Raif's wife Ensaf heard the news she had been dreading for months. Since Raif was sentenced in May last year, word that the lashes were about to start could come at any time. Raif is due 1,000 lashes in total, always in public, after Friday prayers.
The tortuous flogging is just part of Raif's sentence. The Saudi Criminal Courts dealt him a ten year prison sentence, a fine of over a quarter of a million US dollars, and banned him from travelling or using media after his decade in prison.
This week, Ensaf was told that Raif was moved to a different prison. Today, she found out that this was in preparation for the public floggings tomorrow.
Raif is not a criminal: he is a prisoner of conscience, paying the price for encouraging free speech.
1000 lashes and 10 years in prison for blogging
Raif’s ‘crime’ was to create ‘Saudi Arabian Liberals’ – a website and forum encouraging political and social debate. After his arrest in 2012, Saudi authorities found Raif to have broken the country’s strict information technology law and insulted Islamic religious figures by creating and managing the website.
Saudi authorities are trying to make an example of Raif – flogging him in public is not only cruel and inhumane, it serves as a warning to others. The moment the government official picks up the microphone and announces Raif’s crime and sentence to the waiting crowd, everyone present will witness the cost of free speech in Saudi Arabia.
People in Saudi Arabia cannot demonstrate in the street. They cannot speak in public. Now they cannot use the internet to share their views - they are effectively gagged.
Support Raif, support free speech
Today, the one discussion dominating UK media is free speech - for entirely different reasons.
In Saudi Arabia, speaking out and challenging the ruling regime's dictum often comes at a price. Raif's lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, was himself sentenced to 15 years in prison and a further 15 years' travel ban just two months after he'd represented Raif in court. He was found guilty of multiple 'crimes' all relating to 'harming public order', 'disobeying the ruler', 'questioning the integrity of judges'. In other words, he too was imprisoned for simply speaking out. And legitimately, given his client's case, and the other human rights cases he's represented.
Tonight, my thoughts are with Ensar, their children, and most of all with Raif.
I hope Saudi authorities do the right thing. Please help us convince them.
Raif is scheduled to be lashed right after Friday prayers, which take place at 9am UK time tomorrow.
The quickest way to get a petition to the relevant authorities that have power to stop Raif's flogging, is for us to fax the government offices directly. We send faxes over in batches as they come in.
Text HALT and your first and last name to 70505 and we will add your name to the following petition:
Do not flog Raif Badawi. Flogging violates the prohibition on torture under international law.
Please release Raif Badawi immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
I ask you to please ensure that both of Raif Badawi's conviction and sentences are quashed.
We'll only share your name on the petition - never your number.
The petition will be sent to:
- The King and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
- The Minister of the Interior, His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al Saud
- The President of Saudi Arabia's Human Rights Commission, Bandar Mohammed 'Abdullah al-Aiban
- The Saudi Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency and Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Text terms: Over 14s only please. Texts will cost your standard next rate, no more than 10p. By giving us your number you agree to future communication from us by SMS. To unsubscribe, text STOP AMNESTY to 70505 at any time. Read our terms and conditions in full
If you want to take action in time but prefer not to text - and have access to a fax machine! - please fax the authorities directly using the contact details in the downloadable document below.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.