Raif Badawi, Appeal Denied, Will Soon Face Brutal Punishment for Blasphemy – UPDATED

September 4, 2014

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Update 9/17/2014

Saudi dissident Raif Badawi, convicted of “insulting Islam,” has had his appeal denied, and will soon have a brutal punishment inflicted upon him: 10 years in prison, separated from his wife and children; 1000 lashes, given in installments of 50 lashes every week, in public; a 10-year travel ban after his prison sentence; and a massive fine.

We need you to raise your voice: demand that Saudi Arabia free Raif, and respect the universally recognized human rights to freedom of expression and belief.

Click here to jump to a list of Saudi officials to contact. 

Below is video of my address before the United Nations Human Rights Council on September 17, 2014, and the full text can be found here.

Original post with full details:

Last year, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a young man named Raif Badawi to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. Badawi’s alleged crimes? Founding a website, Liberal Saudi Network, that was dedicated to fostering debate on religion and politics; and calling on his country to respect freedom of religion, belief, and expression, and women’s rights. According to the Saudi court, Badawi — a 30-year-old husband and father of three — was found guilty of “insulting Islam.” 

You’ve probably heard of Badawi before: his is been one of the central cases in the Center for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression. Launched in 2012, the Campaign is an effort to highlight the most egregious examples of governments around the world restricting freedom of thought. Since launching the Campaign, CFI has worked to raise awareness on Raif’s plight and secure his freedom by organizing protestspressing United States government officials, and speaking on his case before the highest human rights bodies in the world. Personally, I have been in direct contact with Raif, his lawyer, and his family to keep current on the facts of his case and provide support where I can.  

Earlier this year, we received some good news: Badawi’s sentence was overturned by an appeals court, and his case was sent for review to Jeddah’s Criminal Court. Unfortunately, just months later, the Criminal Court sentenced Badawi to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a one million riyal fine (USD $266,631). To make matters worse, the Saudi government also jailed Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Sami Abu Al-Khair, for his human rights activism (we are now also working for his freedom). That left Badawi to defend himself in a criminal justice system that is already stacked against “offenders.” 

And defend himself he has. Badawi has shown remarkable resilience in the face of a powerful monarchy doing everything it can to crush his morale. 

This week, however, we received perhaps our worst news yet: the Saudi appeals court in Mecca confirmed Badawi’s sentence. This means Badawi’s sentence is final, and that Saudi officials could begin to impose lashes on Badawi within several weeks. According to the final decision, Badawi will receive 50 lashes per session, with a break of no less than a week between sessions. The lashings will be carried out in public after Friday prayers in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah.

As you can imagine, we here at the Center for Inquiry are outraged by this injustice. Badawi, a husband and father of three children, and has now been in prison for more than two years simply for starting a website devoted to open dialogue. We have already relayed our concerns to several governments, including the United States, and will soon communicate them directly to the Saudi Arabian government. We will also be raising Raif’s (and Waleed’s) case once again at the upcoming 27th session of the Human Rights Council, which I am attending. 

But, in the meantime, we need your help. CFI urges you to join us by sending an appeal to one, or all, of the following officials. In your messages, we urge you to make clear three demands: 

1) Release Raif Badawi immediately and unconditionally;

2) Drop any charges against Badawi and others for “blasphemy,” “insulting Islam,” or “apostasy,” which are protected by international human rights law, and;

3) Reform the country’s laws to protect freedom of religion, belief, and expression. 

Please send your appeals to the following officials. Also, if you can, please share your messages with cfe@centerforinquiry.net; we will be collecting them to feature on the website in the future. 

King and Prime Minister                                       

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud                  
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King             &
nbsp;                  
Royal Court, Riyadh                                                  
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia                                            
Fax:  011 966 1 403 3125

Minister of the Interior

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road, Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125

Minister of Justice

Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Abdul Kareem Al-Issa
Ministry of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741 | +966 1 402 0311

Ambassador

His Excellency Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Ave. NW Washington DC 20037
Fax: 1 202 944 5983
Email: info@saudiembassy.net 

I will update you all with more information if and when possible. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions or provide suggestions in the comments below. Together, we might be able to make a difference for not just Raif, but countless others who have been persecuted by the Saudi government for doing nothing but excercising their basic human rights to believe and speak. 

Note: some of this material has appeared in previous blog posts.