Government hopes Saudi blogger Raif Badawi to be pardoned

Minister asked why no outrage against Saudi Arabia for its denial of freedom of speech

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said the Government hopes a man sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years' imprisonment for demanding freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia will be pardoned.

Mr Flanagan who on Thursday discussed the case of Raif Badawi with the director of Amnesty International in Ireland, said it had been repeatedly raised on behalf of Ireland and other member states of the EU with the Saudi Arabian authorities, when he was convicted and again after he was flogged with the first 50 lashes.

He said a senior official in his department had also raised the issue directly with the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Dublin, and EU embassies in Riyadh were continuing to work intensively on the case.

Flogging suspended


The Minister noted the suspension of the second flogging of 50 lashes and referred to reports yesterday of a further suspension.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation in conjunction with our EU colleagues, and it is our hope that this issue will be dealt with by the Saudi authorities with particular reference to a pardon,” he said.

Mr Badawi was sentenced over his involvement in a website which called for a debate on freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia and for the separation of church and state.

People before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett raised the issue in the Dáil as a protest was taking place last night outside the Saudi embassy in Dublin.

Mr Boyd Barrett said the Taoiseach and world leaders protested in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo magazine killings, “declaring their outrage that anybody would suppress freedom of speech or persecute or kill journalists”.

Rights abuses

He asked however about the relative lack of outrage in the case of Mr Badawi and his lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who had been imprisoned for 15 years for criticising human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, a country where 83 people were beheaded last year.

The Saudi authorities were “beheading people week in week out, jailing journalists, flogging them and cutting people’s hands and legs off. Yet we continue to treat them in the normal diplomatic manner” and to trade with them.

Ireland would not allow Islamic State to have an embassy in Dublin, but allow the Saudis to have one, he added.

Mr Flanagan said the Government would continue to express its concern through official channels. He said if the behaviour took place in Ireland, “this would not be an offence by any manner or means” and that the sentence “is by no means in accordance with human rights standards”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times