Saudi authorities have postponed the second round of public flogging of a blogger convicted of insulting Islam, citing medical reasons, according to a leading human rights group.
Amnesty International said authorities delayed administering 50 lashings to Raif Badawi, set to take place today after midday prayers, because his wounds from last week's flogging had not yet healed properly.
Mr Badawi was sentenced in May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticised Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on the liberal blog he founded.
Mr Badawi’s first public flogging took place last Friday before dozens of people in the Red Sea city of Jiddah. The father of three was taken to a public square, whipped on his back and legs, and taken back to prison.
He was due to be flogged again after Friday prayers, although Saudi authorities had come under Western pressure to call off the punishment.
Political stakes over Mr Badawi‘s case, which included a charge of insulting Islam, have been heightened by the Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo newspaper and its subsequent publication of more cartoons lampooning Islam‘s Prophet Muhammad.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International said in a statement that a medical examination found that Mr Badawi’s earlier “wounds had not yet healed properly and that he would not be able to withstand another round of lashes at this time”.
The doctor who carried out the medical check-up recommended that the flogging be postponed until next week, Amnesty said, adding “it is unclear whether the authorities will fully comply with this demand”.
Mr Badawi, who set up the Free Saudi Liberals website, was arrested in June 2012 for offences which also included cyber crime and disobeying his father - a crime in Saudi Arabia.
The prosecution had demanded he be tried for apostasy, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but a judge dismissed that charge.
He was sentenced last year to 10 years in jail, a fine of 1 million riyals ($267,000) and 1,000 lashes after prosecutors challenged an earlier sentence of seven years and 600 lashes as too lenient.
The United States has called on Riyadh last week to cancel the sentence of 1,000 lashes.