Oh, do better, State Department. Come on.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia.
MR RATHKE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment or reaction on the upholding by the supreme court of the blogger’s verdict and punishment by flogging?
MR RATHKE: We are deeply concerned that the Saudi supreme court has upheld the 10-year prison sentence and 1,000 lashes for human rights activist and blogger Raif Badawi for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion. As we had previously said back in January, the United States Government continues to call on Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case and sentence. We strongly oppose laws, including apostasy laws, that restrict the exercise of freedom of expression, and we urge all countries to uphold these.
QUESTION: So would you like to see this – the court said the only way it could be overturned was with a royal pardon. Would you be – are you looking for the new king to grant a pardon in this case?
MR RATHKE: Well, I don’t have anything further to say about the internal workings of how Saudi authorities may address the case, but I would go back to our call on Saudi authorities to cancel this punishment and to review the case and review the sentence.
QUESTION: Well, that sounds to me like you’re calling for the king to pardon him.
MR RATHKE: I don’t have –
QUESTION: Well, if you called on them –
MR RATHKE: — more to say about –
QUESTION: — back in January to review the case and then to cancel the punishment, they have reviewed it now, the court has at least, and upheld it. So you still want it to be reviewed and – the case to be reviewed and the punishment to be canceled, correct? That’s what I’m hearing.
MR RATHKE: Yeah, that’s our answer.
QUESTION: The only way – the court says the only way that that can happen is if a royal pardon is issued. Ergo, or does that mean that you are calling on the king to issue a pardon?
MR RATHKE: I’m not going to go beyond what I said. That’s –
QUESTION: Well, then it doesn’t sound like – I mean, if you won’t call on the king to issue a pardon, which is what the court says is the only way that the punishment or the case can be dismissed, then I don’t understand what the point of you getting up here and saying that you’re deeply concerned about it is because you’re clearly not going to do anything – do the one thing that – or call on the king to do the one thing that –
MR RATHKE: To go back to the verb you used earlier, I’m not going to parse the Saudi court’s decision. But the United States Government’s view remains that we believe that the punishment should be canceled and that the case and the sentence should be reviewed.
QUESTION: But if the only way that that can happen is by royal pardon, why wouldn’t you call on the king to issue a royal pardon?
MR RATHKE: I just don’t have anything further to say on that one.
Thanks for nothing.