Imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi [official website], a recent recipient of the prestigious European human rights award, the Sakharov Prize, has suffered fainting spells and deteriorating health [Sydney Morning Herald report] owing to the lengthy hunger strike he initiated more than 20 days ago. According to Ensaf Haidar, Badawi’s wife who was recently granted asylum in Canada, the strike was initiated primarily to protest Badawi’s transfer to a different prison in Saudi Arabia. However, neither the government of Canada nor Amnesty International in Canada [advocacy website] has been able to confirm the hunger strike. Regardless, Canada has expressed its commitment to continue its calls for clemency on Badawi’s behalf. Haidar stated that she last spoke with Badawi two weeks ago, and had been kept informing of Badawi’s condition by a contact in Saudi Arabia whom she refused to identify. Haidar had been separated from Badawi for the past four years and was hoping to be reunited with him by the end of 2015.
Raif Badawi was found guilty [Reuters report] by a Saudi Arabia court of “founding an Internet forum that violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought” and for breaking Saudi Arabia’s technology laws. Badawi ran his liberal Saudi blog network for four years before being arrested. Badawi was originally charged [JURIST report] with insulting Islam for co-founding the religious discussion website Free Saudi Liberals. The Saudi Arabia [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] court sentenced Badawi to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July 2013. This sentence was later revised in May 2014 to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes. Badawi received his first 50 lashes in January 2015, but floggings have been delayed since for reasons that have not been made public. A medical report shows that he was not fit for punishment. Badawi’s sentence was upheld in June 2015.