Saudi Arabian authorities on Friday postponed a scheduled flogging of liberal blogger Raif Badawi on medical grounds, a rights advocacy group said, in a case that has triggered an international outcry.
Amnesty International said Badawi was removed from his jail cell in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah early Friday and taken to the prison clinic for a medical check-up.
A 31-year-old Saudi national, Badawi was last year sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam in an internet forum. He was also fined 1 million Saudi riyals (266,600 dollars).
Last week he received the first 50 lashes in public. A doctor later concluded that the wounds from those lashes had not yet healed properly and that the blogger would not be able to withstand another round until next week, the London-based rights group said.
There was no official Saudi comment.
“Not only does this postponement on health grounds expose the utter brutality of this punishment, it underlines its outrageous inhumanity. The notion that Raif Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous,” Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme, said.
The floggings, which are supposed to be carried out on a weekly basis, have prompted international condemnation, with supporters calling him a prisoner of conscience.
The United States has said it is “greatly concerned” about the case and has called on Saudi authorities to review the sentence.
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haider, has called on the West to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to release him.
Speaking to dpa, she said her husband’s aim was to discuss and spread more liberal ideas in the conservative kingdom.
Haider, a Saudi citizen, is currently in Canada.
Saudi Arabia applies a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law, which foresees the death penalty for certain offences. Rights advocates accuse the kingdom of oppressing political dissent. SAPA