Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was jailed for "insulting Islam" online, began a hunger strike on Tuesday after being transferred to a new, isolated prison, this according to his wife, Ensaf Haidar.
Haidar, who lives in Canada where she and their three children were granted political asylum, confirmed the news by phone after tweeting it.
For four years, Badawi ran a blog called the Liberal Saudi Network, which encouraged online discussions on the most important current events, including politics and religion.
He was arrested in 2012, convicted and initially given a seven-year sentence and 600 lashes. Later the Court of Appeal considered the punishment too light, and so imposed a ten-year sentence, a US$ 210,000 fine, and one thousand lashes.
In June 2015, the Saudi Supreme Court upheld Badawi’s conviction of “insulting Islam by using the electronic media” via his "liberal" blog, later closed.
Badawi received the first 50 lashes in January. According to Canadian sources, he was later transferred to a different prison for “administrative reasons”.
His wife twitted the news but the information could not be independently confirmed. She also addressed an appeal to the Saudi monarch. “I call on his majesty King Salman to pardon my husband,” Haidar tweeted. “Please unite my children with their father.”
This year Raif Badawi’s action in favour of freedom of thought was recognised with two awards: the Pen Pinter Prize for "the simplicity of” his “liberal goals" and the Sakharov Prize, the European equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.
His wife Ensaf Haidar plans to travel to France to accept the Sakharov prize on behalf of her husband during a ceremony in Strasbourg on 16 December.
Saudi Arabia applies a strict version of Islamic law (Sharia) and does not tolerate any form of political dissent.
Internet and social media such as Facebook and twitter are highly popular in the Kingdom. However, the authorities forcibly suppress all criticism, dissent or calls for change.