Free Raif

Saudi Arabia is under international pressure as details of human rights abuses in blogger Raif Badawi’s case are revealed, despite attempts to censor them.

A German ambassador has criticized the punishment blogger Raif Badawi received after “insulting” Islam in his blog. The sentencing was 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison. German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel was appalled at the sentence, calling it “unimaginable” before a meeting with the Saudi King. Gabriel was quoted saying “the harshness of this sentence, especially the corporal punishment, is something unimaginable for us, and of course it weighs on our relations.”

A message on Saudi state media said “Saudi Arabia expresses its intense surprise and dismay at what is being reported by some media about the case of citizen Raif Badawi and his sentence.” The statement continued, “Saudi Arabia at the same time emphasises that it does not accept interference in any form in its internal affairs.”

There are also reports of Sweden’s foreign minister being blocked from delivering her speech highlighting human rights at an Arab League meeting. Margot Wallström said “The explanation we have been given is that Sweden has highlighted the situation for democracy and human rights and that is why they do not want me to speak. It’s a shame that a country has blocked my participation.” Wallström is also quoted saying “One must protest against what are nearly medieval methods of punishment.”

Sweden has had an almost decade-long arms deal with Riyadh which was up for renewal later this year. As a result of these issues, however, Sweden has broken the arms deal. Responding to the fallen deal, Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador to Sweden.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 for publishing works criticizing Saudi Arabia’s clerics. He received sentencing for breaking technology laws and insulting religious figures. Beyond his sentencing of 1000 lashes and prison sentence, he was fined $266,000.

Saudi Arabia is particularly harsh on non-believers, going so far as to declare them terrorists last April.

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