Imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi begins hunger strike
Raif Badawi, who received a sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes after he criticized Saudi Arabia's clerics on a liberal blog he founded.
QUEBEC -- Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his lawyer, both imprisoned for years, have started a hunger strike to protest against their isolation and treatment at Dhahban Prison, near Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
The information was made public by Badawi's Canadian lawyer, Irwin Cotler, of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
In a statement released late Wednesday, Cotler said the two men are behind bars for promoting freedom of expression and human rights in Saudi Arabia.
This is not the first hunger strike for Badawi, who led another one last September until he met with a representative of the Saudi Human Rights Commission. He also stopped eating in June 2016, in January 2016, and in December 2015 to force the hand of his jailers, sometimes to get meetings, but also – and above all – to get his medicine.
Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a 10-year ban on journalistic and travel activity and a fine of three million riyals, equivalent to approximately CAD $1.05 million, for creating an online forum to discuss social issues in Saudi Arabia.
His lawyer, Waleed Abulkhair, was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, a travel ban of 15 years and a fine of 200,000 riyals, or about CAD $70,261, a sentence that will come to an end in 2044. He was imprisoned for his statements denouncing the severe penalties imposed on his fellow Saudi citizens, including Badawi.
Badawi has not seen his wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children, for seven years. They are refugees in Sherbrooke. Abulkhair, meanwhile, was already in jail when his first child was born in June 2014. The girl has no access to her parents since her mother Samar Badawi - who is Raif Badawi's sister - is also imprisoned for defending the rights of women, including the right to drive a car, which is now allowed in the country.
There have been numerous reports of her torture, but this information has not been confirmed, as no one has heard from Samar Badawi since her arrest in June 2018.