It is reported that officials have carried out the first 50 lashes of a 1000-lashes sentence against Saudi liberal, Raif Badawi. The charges related to his running of a Liberal Saudi website, focused on advocating greater religious freedom, which was deemed “insulting to Islam” and a threat to the state.
The order papers indicated that the lashings should be “severe”. Witnesses said that despite the severity of the beating today, Raif Badawi “did not flinch; he held the victory symbol and [a] guard had to hold his hand down“.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has consistently protested the prosecution and detention of Raif Badawi, and today unreservedly condemns the punishment. (See also our recent call to action page.)
Director of Communications at IHEU, Bob Churchill, said:
“We bitterly regret and weep for the violence against Raif Badawi.
“Only yesterday it was reported that Saudi Arabia condemned the Charlie Hebdo shootings, and yet the authorities choose this week to brutalize a young man because he had the audacity to stand up and say that his countrymen should have greater liberty. The Saudi state’s condemnation of terror in Paris is hypocrisy of the highest order.
“Around the world for many months, human rights groups have been calling for reprieve, for justice. Saudi’s Western allies have largely held their tongues, calling widely for a pardon only at the eleventh hour. They failed him. We must, all together, call it what is is —Saudi Arabia’s flogging of Raif Badawi is barbarity and torture, plain and simple.
“Raif Badawi was whipped in front of a mosque in public after Friday prayers. Not only is the sentence savage, and an absolute violation of human rights and dignity, but its execution is designed for maximum humiliation, for vengeance. It is a naked attempt to intimidate all those who question authority into silence.
“King Abdullah has branded liberal values and atheist thought as acts of ‘terror’. The reality is abundantly clear today: Through corporal and capital punishment against all those branded “dissidents”, it is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself that acts as a terrorist. To all those who call for freedom of thought and expression, the state of Saudi Arabia is terrorist, no less than the murderers of journalists in Paris.
“Our thoughts and deeds today are focused on Raif, on his family and young children, and on his lawyer Waleed Abulkhair who is likewise jailed merely for his defence of human rights.”
Saudi Arabia was criticised by IHEU and many others in the past year for new “terror” regulations, which labelled the advocacy of liberal values or of “atheist thought in any form” as acts of “terrorism” against the state. Executions have been on the rise and the judiciary appears to have been increasingly keen to recent months to harshly punish anyone branded a “dissident”.
As the attack on Charlie Hebdo has proved this week, images can be powerful…
The world must know his name, and the shame of Saudi Arabia. #FreeRaif #RaifBadawi http://t.co/cdZCqc1qWQ Pls RT pic.twitter.com/I0t6zNZdqV
— IHEU (@IHEU) January 9, 2015
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This article has been revised with minor updates as news breaks.