Saudi blogger tells of flogging ordeal in letter from prison
“All this cruel suffering happened to me because I expressed my opinion,” Badawi said in his first letter from prison since he was jailed in 2012.
The Saudi blogger received his first 50 lashes at a square outside al-Jafali Mosque in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah on January 9. Eight other rounds of the punishment have been suspended in straight weeks.
According to German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, Badawi said that he had “miraculously survived 50 lashes.”
The blogger also complained that he lives at a 20-square-metre cell “in the middle of” dozens of criminals, murderers, thieves, drug dealers and child abusers.
Ensaf Haidar(C), the wife of the Saudi Blogger Raef Badawi, holds a vigil in Montreal, Canada, on January 13, 2015 urging Saudi Arabia to free her husband. © AFP
Ensaf Haidar, Badawi’s wife, also said that the father-of-three is “in a poor condition” and that he is suffering from high blood pressure.
The blogger’s comments come as a book titled “1,000 Lashes: Why I Say What I Think,” which is about the ordeal of Badawi, is due to be published in Germany on April 1.
Prosecution for Badawi began in 2008 after he co-founded the “Free Saudi Liberals” website, on which he criticized the influential Saudi clerics who preach Wahhabism.
He was arrested in June 2012 under cybercrime provisions.
Although his lawyers demanded a retrial, the sentence was upheld last May. He was sentenced to 1,000 lashes, to be carried out in 20 sessions in front of a mosque, ten years in jail, USD 266,000 in cash fine, 10-year ban on overseas travel, and 10-year ban from participating in visual, electronic and written media.
Criticism of Wahhabi clerics is viewed as a red line as they are instrumental in supporting Riyadh’s policies.
International human rights organizations have lashed out at Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.