Quebecers call for more action to free Saudi blogger Raif Badawi
Published Tuesday, January 13, 2015 11:19AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 13, 2015 7:44PM EST
Days before a Saudi Arabian blogger is scheduled to be flogged in public for the second time, supporters in Quebec are calling for him to be freed.
Amnesty International, joined by members of the Parti Quebecois and Quebec Solidaire, voiced their support on Tuesday in a vigil for Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.
Badawi has been imprisoned since June 17, 2012 for insulting Islam, by asking for more freedom in the Saudi Arabian kingdom. For this, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes – 50 per week for 20 weeks. He received his first 50 lashes in a public square in Saudi Arabia Friday.
“The human rights treatment in Saudi Arabia is appalling. In terms of torture beheading and death penalty, freedom of expression, freedom of association, said Beatrice Vaugrante, director general of Amnesty International Canada’s francophone wing.
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children came to Canada in 2013; they were granted asylum after facing persecution in the Arab world. They now live in Sherbrooke, and hope for Bawadi to join them.
“The family is here in Canada as refugees. We say we stand up for human rights, so that is a good opportunity to do it,” said NDP MP Helene Laverdiere.
Quebec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir says that every minute counts for Badawi, and urged governments to help liberate the blogger.
“It’s time to turn words into actions. The federal government must intervene immediately towards its Saudi counterparts and demand the immediate liberation of Raif Badawi so he can join his family in Sherbrooke,” said Khadir.
He added that Badawi’s only crime was to use the pen to denounce religious extremism, just as the victims of the Charlie Hebdo killings did.
Khadir is disappointed with the federal government for taking too long to take a position on the matter, and without denouncing Saudi Arabia.
Support is growing locally and worldwide for Badawi. About 100 protesters gathered outside the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada at Complexe Guy Favreau Tuesday, asking all of Canada to stand for him too.
“We should not forget that freedom of expression should be defended all over the world,” said protester Cyrille Giraud.
Canada's foreign affairs office issued a statement last week condemning the imprisonment and flogging of Badawi, but have not said much more than that.
For those at the vigil Tuesday, that response was not good enough.
“The silence of the Harper government is appalling,” said protester Robert McBride. “It's egregious and it just makes me terribly sad.”
Amnesty International produced a video posted to YouTube in which Badawi's son, Doudi, reads a letter he wrote to his dad.