06/08/2015, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Supreme Court confirms 10 years and 1,000 lashes for a Saudi blogger

Requests for clemency and appeals by human rights activists and international organizations prove useless. Raif Badawi will have to serve full sentence, increased on appeal. According to his wife the new round of lashes might start on June 12.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Despite appeals from human rights activists and humanitarian organizations, the Saudi Arabia Supreme Court confirmed the sentence of a thousand lashes and 10 years in prison for the blogger Raif Badawi.

Interviewed by the BBC from her refuge in Canada, his wife Ensaf Haidar said that the new series of floggings could start as early as next June 12. In January, the authorities had ordered the review of the case following the protests of the international community, after the first set of lashes (50, then suspended).

Badawi had been arrested in 2012 and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. However, the judges of the Court of Appeal considered the sentence too mild and imposed 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison, plus a fine of 193 thousand euro.

A verdict which was approved yesterday by the highest courts  which have punished the man for having created a "liberal" blog – later closed - and "insulting Islam by using the electronic media."

For four years Badawi managed the Liberal Saudi Network, a site that encouraged discussion on the internet of the most important current events, politics and even religion.

His wife says she had hoped he may have been freed. In a recent phone interview, he told her not to expect his return home "in the near future." This is why Ensaf Haidar is once again appealing to international organizations and activists, to resume the mobilization campaign for the release of her husband.

In the past a video taken by a mobile phone that showed the floggings inflicted on the blogger was widely circulated online; the images sparked international protest and appeals for clemency. In response, the authorities in Riyadh had expressed "surprise and dismay" at the criticism and rejected all forms of interference in the internal affairs of the country.

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.

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