Saudi Arabia: Ensaf Haidar pleads for release of husband Raif Badawi

Today, 7 May, marks one year since activist and blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam and founding a liberal website. Ensaf Haidar has marked the anniversary of her husband being sentenced with a striking open letter, calling on the Saudi authorities to grant him an amnesty and allow him to be reunited family:

Raif was just a man of thought who conveyed that thought in writing. He was dreaming of and aspiring towards a beautiful world. He wanted us, in a country of one opinion, one way of thinking and one religion, to respect difference.

Voicing his thoughts loudly annoyed the Saudi authorities but they have made him into an icon of freedom – not only in Saudi Arabia, but throughout the world. On this day, hundreds of Raif’s sympathisers stand in front of Saudi embassies across the four corners of the world demanding Raif’s freedom.’

Read the full letter in today’s Independent.

It has now been almost four months since Raif Badawi was first flogged on 9 January. Every Friday since, English PEN and our supporters have held a vigil outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London, and every week we have been relieved to learn that further floggings have not gone ahead. However, whilst it was originally announced Badawi had not recovered sufficiently from the previous punishment to receive further lashes, several weeks have now passed with no explanation. We continue to call for the sentence of flogging to be overturned as a matter of urgency and for Raif Badawi’s immediate and unconditional release.

Tomorrow, 8 May, we will be holding our 17th vigil for Raif Badawi, calling for his release and that of his lawyer and brother-in-law Waleed Abulkhair, who is serving 15 years in prison for his peaceful activism. Please join us.

Supporters are asked to meet at the Curzon Street entrance to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mayfair, London (note: the postal address of the Embassy is 30-32 Charles Street) from 9am.

View photos from our vigils here.

In the meantime, please continue to show your support for Raif and his family.

TAKE ACTION

  • English PEN is holding weekly vigils outside the Saudi Embassy in London every Friday at 9am, until 22 May. Do join us if you can.
  • Write to the Saudi authorities (a sample letter is available below) – please cc: cat@englishpen.org
  • Watch and share the video from our ninth protest at the Saudi Embassy
  • Sign Amnesty’s petition for his release
  • Call on the new British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia to take urgent action
  • Send a message of support to his wife and children – via email to cat@englishpen.org

Letter to the authorities

Send to: ukemb@mofa.gov.sa

Your Excellency

I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to express serious concern for Raif Badawi.

According to PEN’s information, on 9 January 2015 imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi received the first round of 50 lashes in a public flogging after Friday prayers. Badawi is now due to receive 50 lashes each Friday until he has received 1,000 lashes, although subsequent floggings have not gone ahead.

I join PEN in calling for his sentence of flogging to be overturned immediately, as well as for Badawi’s conviction to be quashed and for him to be released unconditionally. I also call for the release of Badawi’s lawyer and brother-in-law Waleed Abulkhair who is currently serving 15 years in prison for his peaceful activism.

I would welcome your comments on my appeal.

Yours sincerely

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