Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, may now face the death penalty, his family says.
In a statement published on Facebook, Badawi’s family says they’ve “received information from reliable sources” that Raif will be retried on charges of abandoning his religion by the same judge who has unsuccessfully tried to charge him with the crime twice before.
“We have reasons to believe without any doubts that the same judge has again asked the Head of the Court of Apeal [sic] to charge Raif with ‘Apostasy’,” the statement reads.
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Amnesty International, the international rights group that has been working to secure Badawi’s release, says the family’s claims could not be verified and that the controversial Saudi blogger shouldn’t be behind bars regardless.
In May 2014, Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, banned for life from giving media appearances and flogged for insulting Islam and violating Saudi Arabia’s information technology laws with his “Free Saudi Liberals” blog. His writing promoted secular and liberal views and denounced religious extremism.
The judge’s attempt to charge Badawi with apostasy previously failed because the criminal court in Jeddah didn’t have the jurisdiction to rule on cases that resulted in the death penalty. Yet in September 2014, that changed as Supreme Judicial Council gave the court the ability to rule on capital punishment cases.
In their statement, the family renewed their call to have Badawi pardoned and permitted to fly to Canada, where he can be reunited with his wife and children.
Ensaf Haidar, Badawi’s wife, is appealing to Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice chancellor and economic minister, who will travel to Saudi Arabia next week,Deutsche-Welle reports. Haidar appeared on German TV channel ZDF on Sunday and directly asked the country’s government to help secure her husband’s release.
“I would like Vice Chancellor Gabriel to make contact with those responsible in Saudi Arabia and to ask them for Raif’s release, and not just for his release but also for an exit visa allowing him to travel from Saudi Arabia to Canada,” Haidar said.
Gabriel said the German government is working on Badawi’s release, but that details shouldn’t be discussed on national television. In recent weeks, human rights groups and Germany’s opposition parties have criticized the German government for cultivating business ties and exporting military goods to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt, which all have poor human rights records.
Badawi received his first 50 lashes in a public flogging in January. He is supposed to receive 50 lashes every week until he has endured 1,000, buthealth complications from the first round have prevented him from receiving any more, The Guardian reports.