Saudi Arabia delays activist’s flogging for second time

Amnesty International says Raif Badawi’s flogging postponed on medical grounds

Saudi Arabia plans to delay the public flogging of a rights activist on medical grounds for a second time, Amnesty International said, raising the possibility that Riyadh may be trying to quietly drop the punishment that has drawn international rebuke.

Raif Badawi, a blogger and founder of the "Free Saudi Liberals" website, was sentenced last year to 10 years in jail, a fine of 1 million riyals (€233,000) and 1,000 lashes.

He was arrested in June 2012 on charges which included insulting Islam, cyber crime and disobeying his father - a crime in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Badawi was subjected to the first 50 lashes two weeks ago but a second round of flogging, scheduled to be held last Friday after Friday prayers, was postponed, ostensibly on medical grounds.


Medical assessment

Amnesty International said in a statement Mr Badawi’s planned flogging on Friday will be suspended again after a medical committee assessed that he should not undergo a second round of lashes on health grounds.

"The committee, comprised of around eight doctors, carried out a series of tests on Raif Badawi at the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah yesterday and recommended that the flogging should not be carried out," the statement said.

Political stakes over Mr Badawi's case have been heightened by this month's attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris and its subsequent publication of more cartoons lampooning Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

The US had called on Riyadh to cancel the sentence of 1,000 lashes.

Amnesty said Mr Badawi was still at risk of flogging despite the medical report, and called on authorities to “publicly announce an end to his flogging”.