Wife of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi says flogging of husband to restart soon

Wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi believes his lashings are expected to resume soon, urging the incoming government to act

(Anthony Devlin/CP)

(Anthony Devlin/CP)

MONTREAL – The wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi believes his flogging sentence is expected to resume soon and is imploring the incoming Canadian government to help her husband come to Canada.

A source she trusts has told her the lashes are set to resume, without specifying exactly when, Ensaf Haidar said in an interview from her home in Sherbrooke, Que., on Wednesday.

Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticizing Saudi Arabian clerics on his website. He is also facing a hefty fine.

The flogging has been suspended since an initial 50 lashes in January due apparently to health concerns and undisclosed reasons.

In a blog item posted this week to the Raif Badawi Foundation website, Haidar wrote a Saudi source said the flogging will be administered inside the prison, adding the same source had warned her about the first 50 lashes before they took place on Jan. 9, 2015.

“I don’t exactly know when it will happen,” Haidar said in a phone interview. “The person called me to say Saudi Arabia would restart the lashing, but I don’t know whether it will be this Friday or next.”

Haidar is imploring Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau to take up her husband’s case. Trudeau has previously voiced his support.

“I would like him to help, yes,” said Haidar, adding what she’d like is Canada to send Badawi a passport.

Related: Q&A with Ensaf Haidar

Outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also spoken out against Badawi’s treatment. But he said Ottawa’s influence was limited.

While he is not a Canadian citizen, Badawi’s wife and children have lived in Quebec’s Eastern Townships region since 2013.

She repeated her wish to have the Saudi king pardon her husband and deport him to Canada to be reunited with his family.

Badawi’s detention and sentence have stirred up worldwide condemnation and Haidar has travelled extensively pushing for Badawi’s release.

Canada has called for clemency in the Badawi case and Quebec lawmakers unanimously adopted a motion in February calling for his immediate release, vowing to expedite his immigration case should he make it here.

Haidar said the possibility of the flogging beginning again is weighing heavily on her and the couple’s children.

“For sure, with this information, I’m very worried,” she said. “It’s difficult for us, my kids and for Raif, too.”

Badawi was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes, but an appeals judge stiffened the punishment and fined him the equivalent of more than $352,000 Cdn.

A spokeswoman for Amnesty International’s Quebec branch says it has not been able to verify Haidar’s claims.

Anne Ste-Marie said Badawi’s case has been bouncing between Saudi courts, but the organization hasn’t heard much since the summer.

Getting information out of Saudi Arabia has proven difficult, she added, with confirmation a flogging hasn’t taken place coming after-the-fact, early Friday mornings here in Quebec.

“What we’ve said since the beginning is we’re always worried because he could be flogged at any time,” Ste-Marie said.

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