Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes over accusations he insulted Islam, could now be facing the death penalty, Channel 4 News learns.
Raif Badawi, 31, was expected to serve a 10-year jail sentence, and a fine of £175,000 for offences related to his setting up of an online forum for public debate, as well as accusations he insulted Islam.
On 9 January, the Saudi writer was lashed 50 times as the first part of his sentence to be flogged 1,000 lashes over a course of 20 weeks. However, subsequent floggings were postponed due to injuries that he sustained.
Mr Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haider, has told Channel 4 News that judges in Saudi Arabia’s criminal courts are wanting him to undergo a re-trial for apostasy. If found guilty, he would face the death penalty.
In a statement on Facebook, the family said that they had received information that the case would be referred to the same judge who sentenced Mr Badawi with flogging and 10 years imprisonment. The said: “[The judge’s] has twice requested that Raif be charged with ‘apostasy’. His request was declined at the time on the ground that the criminal court has no jurisdiction on cases that lead to death penalty.
We call on the world citizens and governments not to leave Raif dragged by such bigots to death. Raif Badawi’s family
“However, due to a new regulation issued by the Supreme Judicial Council on 19.09.2014, the penal court has now jurisdiction over major cases, which are punishable by the death penalty, amputation and stoning.
“We have reasons to believe without any doubts that the same judge has again asked the Head of the Court of Apeal to charge Raif with ‘Apostasy’.
“We call on the world citizens and governments not to leave Raif dragged by such bigots to death. And we renew our calls to his Majesty King Salman to pardon Raif Badawi and allow him to leave Canada to be united with his family there.”
International development minister for the Scottish Government, Humza Yousaf, said that they would continue to monitor the situation:
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) March 1, 2015
The news comes as blow to his supporters, including human rights organisation Amnesty International, who have been campaigning weekly to stop the floggings.
In January, Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme, called for authorities to release him immediately as he was deemed unfit for a second series of lashes. He said: “Instead of continuing to torment Raif Badawi by dragging out his ordeal with repeated assessments the authorities should publicly announce an end to his flogging and release him immediately and unconditionally.
“Raif Badawi is still at risk, there is no way of knowing whether the Saudi Arabian authorities will disregard the medical advice and allow the flogging to go ahead.”
Downing Street said last week that it would raise the issue during a visit by the country’s interior minister. Deputy crown prince Muhammad bin Nayef is reported to have had dinner with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Tuesday.