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Saudi Arabia: Amnesty urges release of blogger after sentence expires

Activist Raif Badawi's 10-year jail term, imposed for 'insulting Islam', ended on 1 March, but he remains in Saudi detention
An Amnesty International supporter holds a portrait of jailed blogger Raif Badawi in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy, Brussels, 8 January 2021 (AFP)

Amnesty International has called for the release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi after he completed what it described as his "unjust" 10-year jail term this week.

Creator of the blog "Free Saudi Liberals", Badawi, who was also sentenced to 1,000 lashes, was "arbitrarily detained solely for freely expressing his opinions", a statement from the rights group said on Friday.

Badawi, 38, who had advocated for an end to religious influence on Saudi public life, received his first beating of 50 lashes but the rest were suspended after international condemnation.

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"Raif Badawi has spent a decade behind bars solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa regional director.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities must ensure his immediate and unconditional release and lift the unlawful travel ban imposed on him so he can finally reunite with his family."

Amnesty said that Badawi completed his prison sentence on 1 March.

'Insulting Islam'

The winner of the Reporters Without Borders prize for press freedom was arrested and detained in Saudi Arabia in 2012 on charges of "insulting Islam" and at the end of 2014 was sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

His wife, Ensaf Haidar, fled to Canada in 2013 and lives with their three children in Quebec, while continuing to press for her husband's release, AFP reported.

Amnesty has long campaigned for the release of Badawi and others activists imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.

'For years, the Saudi Arabian authorities have conducted a relentless campaign of repression in the name of security'

- Amnesty International

In 2019, it accused Saudi authorities of a "relentless campaign of repression".

"For years, the Saudi Arabian authorities have conducted a relentless campaign of repression in the name of security," said the rights group.

"The authorities have cracked down on peaceful activists calling for reforms and on demonstrators protesting against human rights violations.

"Those who express dissent face arrest and imprisonment whether they are critics, bloggers, activists, or academics. Raif Badawi is just one of many."

Even after his release, Badawi will still be facing a 10-year travel ban.

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