Saudi Arabia’s supreme court has upheld a sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes against the blogger Raif Badawi on charges of insulting Islam, according to his wife.
The judgment came despite worldwide outrage over his case and criticism from the United Nations, United States, the European Union, Canada and others.
“This is a final decision that is irrevocable,” his wife, Ensaf Haidar, told AFP in a telephone interview from Canada on Sunday. “This decision has shocked me.”
Badawi received the first 50 of the 1,000 lashes he was sentenced to outside a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on 9 January. Subsequent rounds of punishment were postponed on medical grounds.
Amnesty International slammed the “abhorrent” decision to uphold a “cruel and unjust sentence”, describing it as a “dark day for freedom of expression”.
“Blogging is not a crime and Raif Badawi is being punished merely for daring to exercise his right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.
Badawi’s wife expressed fear that the implementation of the flogging sentence might resume next week. “I was optimistic that the advent of Ramadan and the arrival of a new king would bring a pardon for the prisoners of conscience, including my husband,” she said.
Badawi co-founded the Saudi Liberal Network internet discussion group. He was arrested in June 2012 under cybercrime provisions, and a judge ordered the website to be shut down after it criticised Saudi Arabia’s notorious religious police.
His supporters have launched a campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #backlash that has gathered momentum, and posted pictures of people with lashes drawn on their backs with red lipstick.
In early March Saudi Arabia dismissed criticism of its flogging of Badawi and “strongly denounced the media campaign around the case”.
In his first letter from prison, published by the German weekly Der Spiegel in March, Badawi wrote how he “miraculously survived 50 lashes”. Badawi, 31, recalled that he was “surrounded by a cheering crowd who cried incessantly ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is greatest]” during the whipping.
“All this cruel suffering happened to me because I expressed my opinion,” Badawi wrote.
Badawi’s wife and their three children have received asylum in Quebec, Canada.
Quebec’s immigration minister, Kathleen Weil, said in March that her government would “continue its defence of Mr Badawi”, saying this was a “clear case of human rights violation”.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Canada, Naif Bin Bandar al-Sudairi, complained officially. “The kingdom does not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs and rejects … the attack on the independence of its justice system,” he wrote in a letter to the Canadian government.