Trudeau not ready to personally intervene in case of jailed Saudi blogger

The PM won't pick up the phone—not yet—on behalf of Badawi

(Anthony Devlin/CP)

(Anthony Devlin/CP)

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he isn’t planning for the moment to call Saudi Arabian authorities to ask that jailed blogger Raif Badawi be freed.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Trudeau said he won’t pick up the phone right now on behalf of Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his criticism of Saudi clerics.

“It’s not in my immediate plans,” he said Wednesday.

“Raif Badawi has a family who are here in Canada, which gives a certain connection,” Trudeau said. “It’s a humanitarian case on which we continue to express ourselves in a clear fashion.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion met in Ottawa on Thursday with his Saudi counterpart, Adel Al Jubeir, and discussed various topics, including Badawi.

“I expressed the government’s hope that clemency will be granted in this case,” Dion said in a statement.

Trudeau’s remarks came despite the fact that when he was opposition leader some of his MPs, including Dion, called on then-prime minister Stephen Harper to personally ask the Saudi king to release Badawi.

Dion raised the issue in the Commons on Jan. 26, asking “Will Prime Minister (Harper) intercede himself directly with the new Saudi king, as Mr. Badawi’s wife is begging him?”

Badawi is not a Canadian citizen but his wife and three children live in Sherbrooke, Que.

He was arrested in 2012, convicted in 2014 and received 50 of the 1,000 lashes in January of this year during a public flogging.

His imprisonment has drawn widespread condemnation both internationally and in Canada.

Quebec lawmakers unanimously adopted a motion in February calling for his immediate release, vowing to expedite his immigration case should he be allowed to leave Saudi Arabia.

A spokeswoman for Amnesty International said the organization still believes in the Liberal government’s good faith and commitment to freeing Badawi.

“On the other hand, if we don’t see any movement, we will think their passage from opposition to government has made them lose this good will and we will raise the tone,” Anne Sainte-Marie said.

Badawi’s spouse, Ensaf Haidar, has asked Trudeau to take up her husband’s case so he can join his family in Canada.

Trudeau alluded to his meeting with Haidar during Wednesday’s interview, saying he told her clearly that the Liberals would continue to pressure the Saudi government to free Badawi.

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