Saudi Arabia has decided to uphold its decision to sentence Raif Badawi, a 31-year-old blogger who was imprisoned in 2012 after being charged for insulting Islam through his website, to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in public, Badawi's wife said Sunday.
Badawi's sentence also included a $266,000 fine and prevents him from traveling abroad for 10 years after his release from prison. The Saudi Liberal Network, Badawi's website, was also ordered shut down after the blogger was arrested. The decision came from the country's supreme court and cannot be overturned without a royal pardon by the rulers of Saudi Arabia, his wife told media.
“This is a final decision that is irrevocable,” Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, told Agence France-Presse from Quebec, Canada, where she and her three children have received asylum. “This decision has shocked me.”
Haidar said she previously believed that the court would grant her husband a pardon.
"I was optimistic that the advent of [the Muslim fasting month of] Ramadan and the arrival of a new king would bring a pardon for the prisoners of conscience, including my husband," she said.
Badawi's case gained international attention in January after a video of him being publicly flogged by officials in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, was posted to the Internet. The video was of Badawi's first 50 lashes. He was scheduled to receive the rest of his lashes over 19 weekly sessions, but the country held off from further punishment following international demonstrations and criticism from Western allies, including the United States, European Union, Canada and the United Nations, which have called on Saudi Arabia to overturn the sentence.
Supporters have also taken to Twitter with the hashtag #backlash to criticize Saudi Arabia's treatment of Badawi. The supporters use the hashtag to post photos of their backs with marks of red lipstick painted on resemble lashes.
“Blogging is not a crime and Raif Badawi is being punished merely for daring to exercise his right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther, the Middle East and North Africa director of Amnesty International, according to The Guardian.