Saudi blogger reported freed after decade in prison

Mar 11, 2022, 12:44 PM | Updated: 1:25 pm

MONTREAL (AP) — Saudi Arabian blogger and activist Raif Badawi, whose conviction caused widespread international outrage, was released Friday after a decade in prison for criticizing the country’s conservative religious establishment, his Quebec-based wife confirmed.

Ensaf Haidar, who lives with the couple’s three children in the city of Sherbrooke, tweeted that the 2015 winner of Europe’s Sakharov human rights award “is free.” A spokesperson for the family said it had no other comment.

Badawi’s sentence expired on Feb. 28 and Montreal-based human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler, who represents Badawi internationally, said last month the release from prison had been expected sometime in March.

Cotler, a former federal justice minister and founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, had warned that Badawi still faced a 10-year travel ban, a media ban and a punitive fine that was handed down at the time of sentencing.

“We’re talking about a kind of prison without walls where he’s deprived of travel for the next 10 years,” Cotler said at the time. “That would be continuing the punishment outside of prison that he was having inside prison — the severe pain of being deprived of being with his wife and children.”

Badawi was jailed in 2012 and sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of one million Saudi riyals — now about $340,000 — for criticizing the country’s clerics in his writings.

Most of the floggings were suspended, but he eventually suffered 50 lashes before hundreds of spectators in the city of Jiddah in 2015. Badawi’s feet and hands were shackled during the flogging but his face was visible.

The punishment roused outrage and condemnation from around the world, including from many of Saudi Arabia’s allies.

The European Union awarded Badawi the prestigious Sakharov Prize for human rights in 2015 and the U.S. State Department and the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights called on the kingdom to rescind the sentence.

Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Sweden and stopped issuing work visas for Swedes in 2015 after the Scandinavian country’s foreign minister described the Badawi decision as “medieval” and said the kingdom’s ruling Al Saud family presided over a “dictatorship.”

Last year, both Canada’s House of Commons and Senate urged the immigration minister to grant Badawi Canadian citizenship, but that hasn’t happened yet. His wife, however, does have Canadian citizenship.

Badawi’s sister Samar also was imprisoned in 2018 in a crackdown targeting female activists who had peacefully advocated for greater freedoms, according to rights groups. She was freed last year.

Canadian criticism of her case led the Saudi government to expel Canada’s ambassador and withdrew its own ambassador. It also halted flights by its national airline and ordered Saudi students in Canada to return home.

Samar Badawi and others had criticized Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship laws, which gave husbands, fathers and in some cases a woman’s own son control over her ability to obtain a passport and travel. They had also advocated for the right of women to drive. Both restrictions have since been lifted.

Samar Badawi, who also faced a ban on travel, first came to prominence when she petitioned Saudi courts to remove her father as her legal guardian on grounds he was barring her from marrying potential suitors. Years later, she spoke out in defense of her brother Raif.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A road is completely filled with a tall pile of debris from destroyed beachfront homes and b...
Associated Press

Ian deals blow to Florida’s teetering insurance sector

Daniel Kelly and his wife bought a 1977 doublewide mobile home in May for about $83,000 at Tropicana Sands, a community for people 55 and older in Fort Myers, Florida. But he ran into roadblocks when he tried to insure it. Managers at Tropicana Sands told him he likely wouldn’t be able to find a […]
23 hours ago
FILE - This undated photo provided by The Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows John Henry Ram...
Associated Press

Texas inmate who fought prayer, touch rules to be executed

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas death row inmate whose case clarified the role of spiritual advisers in death chambers nationwide is scheduled for execution Wednesday, despite efforts by a district attorney to stop his lethal injection. John Henry Ramirez, 38, was sentenced to death for killing 46-year-old Pablo Castro, a convenience store clerk, in 2004. […]
23 hours ago
A customer looks at refrigerated items at a Grocery Outlet store in Pleasanton, Calif.,. on Thursda...
Associated Press

‘Best Before’ labels scrutinized as food waste concerns grow

As awareness grows around the world about the problem of food waste, one culprit in particular is drawing scrutiny: “best before” labels. Manufacturers have used the labels for decades to estimate peak freshness. Unlike “use by” labels, which are found on perishable foods like meat and dairy, “best before” labels have nothing to do with […]
23 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden attends an event to support legislation that would encourage domestic ma...
Associated Press

Can Biden save democracy one US factory job at a time?

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is working to create a manufacturing revival — even helping to put factory jobs in Republican territory under the belief it can restore faith in U.S. democracy. The latest development came Tuesday, when chipmaker Micron announced an investment of up to $100 billion over the next 20-plus years to […]
23 hours ago
FILE - People stand on the destroyed bridge to Pine Island as they view the damage in the aftermath...
Associated Press

Biden to focus on hurricane victims in Florida, not politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will visit hurricane-ravaged Florida with a pledge that federal, state and local governments will work as one to help rebuild homes, businesses and lives — putting politics on mute for now to focus on those in need. Hurricane Ian has resulted in at least 84 people confirmed dead, including […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Ky., arrives to speak to reporters Sept. 7, 2022,...
Associated Press

GOP optimistic about Senate chances despite Walker turmoil

NEW YORK (AP) — Leading Republicans are entering the final month of the midterm campaign increasingly optimistic that a Senate majority is within reach even as a dramatic family fight in Georgia clouds one of the party’s biggest pickup opportunities. And as some Democrats crow on social media about apparent Republican setbacks, party strategists privately […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Saudi blogger reported freed after decade in prison