Working on a reply

An item from Andy McSmith’s Diary in the Independent:

Stewart McDonald, MP for Glasgow South, arranged a Commons debate on civil rights in Saudi Arabia during which he raised the Badawi case. Replying for the Government, [Foreign Office minister Tobias] Ellwood claimed “the case is in the Supreme Court and is under review. We therefore cannot interfere with that process, in the same way that the Saudi authorities would not interfere with our process.”

When challenged, he insisted: “The case has returned to the Supreme Court, which reflects the fact that the leadership has taken stock of international opinion. The punishment has stopped and is under review. Until that process moves forward, it would be incorrect to comment on another country’s judicial process.”

The last the world heard was that in June the Saudi Supreme Court had upheld Mr Badawi’s sentence, and it was reported then that his only remaining hope was a royal pardon. I asked the Foreign Office if they could throw light on Mr Ellwood’s statement. More than seven hours after he spoke, I was told that their Saudi desk was working on a reply. When it comes, I will gladly pass it on.

It’s confusing. It’s not clear if Ellwood has inside knowledge that the Supreme Court did not rule in June after all and is still reviewing the case, or if he just got it wrong (or obfuscated).


Free Raif Rally in Los Angeles Friday

From Stacy Kennedy:

Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger, was arrested in 2012 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes; the lashes to be administered each Friday, 50 at a time.

Raif’s crime? Founding a website, Free Saudi Liberals, that “insulted Islam through electronic channels.”

Free Saudi Liberals championed free speech and human rights.

Raif received 50 lashes on January 9, 2015. The lashings were suspended for a time, but the Saudi Supreme Court upheld Raif’s sentence on June 7, 2015, and the lashings could resume any time. Raif is reportedly in poor health.

On Friday, June 26, The Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles, in conjunction with Amnesty International, Muslims for Progressive Values, PEN Center USA, and the Los Angeles Press Club, will be protesting Raif’s sentence in front of the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.

We ask the Saudi Government to FREE RAIF BADAWI and allow him to join his wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three young children in Canada.

Please join us.

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2015
12:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Los Angeles
2045 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Stacy Kennedy
(323) 385-1812

Free Raif Rally June 26, 2015

Why wouldn’t you call on the king to issue a royal pardon?

Oh, do better, State Department. Come on.

Via Paul Fidalgo at The Morning Heresy – a passage from the daily press briefing at State.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia.


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? [Read more…]

Terrible news

From the Guardian:

The cruel and unjust sentence passed on the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes, has been upheld by the supreme court in Riyadh. Hopes that the court might reduce or even commute the sentence, particularly as the holy fast of Ramadan begins next week, have been dashed. The only remaining appeal now is to the Saudi monarch, King Salman. From Quebec, where she has been granted asylum with their children, Mr Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar has said that she fears the public flogging – 50 lashes at a time every Friday after prayers – might resume as soon as this Friday.

I’ve often quarreled with the Guardian, but it gets this one right:

Mr Badawi’s sentence is a brutal exercise in public intimidation. He has challenged Saudi Arabia’s autocratic and religious state, and even though his arguments could not be more carefully and modestly expressed, to hold them at all is incompatible with the regime under which he lives.

So what kind of regime is that?

As this newspaper has argued before, Saudi Arabia ought to be treated as a global pariah. It is a source of a particular strain of jihadist poison, of fanatical preachers, and of young men, like the 9/11 hijackers, who threaten both the west and the whole Middle East by their readiness to fight, often in the cause of Wahhabist Islam. For the past month, a Saudi blockade has been imperilling thousands of innocent Yemenis, and aerial bombardment by Saudi jets is killing scores more. Yet the kingdom continues to be treated with honour by western powers. Britain buys Saudi oil and courts Saudi trade. Even free speech in the UK has been curtailed in order to avoid giving offence to so rich and powerful an ally. Of all the European powers, only Sweden has been prepared to jeopardise relations and its arms trade by taking a stand.

Mr Badawi will never have doubted what a challenge he posed to the kingdom. He will have understood the retribution that it was likely to bring down on his head. It is the kind of courage that demands to be recognised and honoured by everyone who respects human rights. We are and we remain Raif Badawi.


Not too far into the future

Raymond Johansen posted a translated transcript of an interview Ensaf Haidar did on NRK Debatt.

Dear Ensaf Haidar, here is your interview again and the following is a translation I hope do you justice. My arabic is limited so please do not feel offended. We tried our best. You are a strong woman and we wish you and your family the best of luck. You are right. Millions of people around the world stand right beside you and your husband Raif Badawi
Ensaf is asked if she knows how her husband is doing in prison at the moment

Ensaf: Raif’s situation is not good at this moment in time – healthwise or psychologically. His situation is not good at all. But that is normal considering his situation, based on all the uncertainty. To sum it up, his situation is not good at all. [Read more…]