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Jailed Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi Faces Second Round Of Public Flogging

We've been following the story of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who is being publicly flogged 50 times each week over 20 weeks for insulting Islam. Badawi is set to receive 50 lashes Friday in the port city of Jiddah despite appeals from around the world that he be pardoned.

Ensaf Haidar, his wife, told Amnesty International she fears Badawi may be unable to withstand a second round of flogging.

"Raif told me he is in a lot of pain after his flogging, his health is poor and I'm certain he will not be able to cope with another round of lashes," she said.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement he had appealed to the Saudi king to pardon Badawi.

"Flogging is, in my view, at the very least, a form of cruel and inhuman punishment," Hussein said, noting he had urged the Saudi king to "urgently review this type of extraordinarily harsh penalty."

Flogging is prohibited under the Convention against Torture, a law to which Saudi Arabia is party. The kingdom, a major ally of the U.S., is also a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Badawi was found guilty last year of insulting Islam on Free Saudi Liberals, a now-shuttered website he created. He was given a sentence of a decade in prison and 1,000 lashes, and ordered to pay about $266,000 in fines. A court had originally sentenced him to 600 lashes and seven years in prison, but a judge increased the sentence after an appeal.

Elham Manea, a spokeswoman for Badawai, tells NPR's Melissa Block that Badawi wrote about "secularism, about what it means to have a free society, freedom of expression.

"When you think about it, he was just stating what many countries are living," she said. "He just wanted that in Saudi Arabia."

Manea told Block that Badawi is a symbol "for many thousands of other men and women who are in prison for doing nothing but expressing their opinion or demanding reform or demanding women's rights."

She urged the U.S., which, along with other Western nations has criticized the punishment, to do more.

"The United States has a responsibility, given the fact that it is always defending human rights on an international level, that it puts pressure on its ally, Saudi Arabia, in order to uphold its own image," she said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.