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    HRW strongly condemned Saudi Arabian authorities for the public flogging of a blogger who was sentenced to 1,000 blows and 10 years in prison for starting a website that was critical of the country's religious position.

    MOSCOW, January 10 (Sputnik) — The Human Rights Watch (HRW) strongly condemned Saudi Arabian authorities for the public flogging of an independent blogger Raif Badawi over his religious and political views in a statement issued Saturday.

    "Corporal punishment is nothing new in Saudi Arabia, but publicly lashing a peaceful activist merely for expressing his ideas sends an ugly message of intolerance," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW Middle East and North Africa director, was quoted in the press release as saying.

    On Friday, Badawi was lashed 50 times in front of a mosque in the city of Jeddah as part of his sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years of imprisonment for founding the Liberal Saudi Network website in 2008, where he allegedly insulted Islam. In addition, the Saudi blogger was sentenced to a fine of one million Saudi riyals ($266,000).

    Badawi was initially sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July 2013, but the appeal court increased the penalty to 10 years of imprisonment and 1,000 lashes, with the weekly flogging of 50 lashes.

    HRW quoted the the witness of the flogging as saying, that a large crowd, who gathered to watch Badawi being lashed shouted "Allahu Akbar" after the punishment was over and the blogger, who had visible bruises, was taken back to the prison.

    According to Whitson, "the cruel and unjust treatment of Badawi is sadly just one piece of a broader crackdown on peaceful dissent in Saudi Arabia.”

    In July 2014, Badawi's lawyer, Waleed Abu Khair, was sentenced to 15 years of prison for criticizing Saudi authorities' human rights violations.

    HRW cited Saudi reporter Fadhid Manasif, who has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for assisting international journalists, covering the protests in the country in 2011-12, as another example of Riyadh's crackdown on peaceful criticism.


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    Internet, religion, flogging, human rights, Human Rights Watch, Raif Badawi, Saudi Arabia
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