The appeals court in Saudi Arabia has upheld blogger Raif Badawi's sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.
Badawi was first arrested in 2012 for "insulting Islam through electronic channels," for his website, Saudi Free Liberals Forum. Although his website argued for freedom of speech and the separation of state and religion, he did not directly criticize the royal family. However, it was enough to land him in hot water, as many of his posts praised the events surrounding the Arab spring and were in support of a secular government, beliefs that in clear opposition to the Saudi government.
The first 50 of the lashes were administered on January 9 in Jeddah, but the rest were been postponed on medical grounds.
His wife told the AFP via phone that she was worried the flogging sentence would resume this Friday. “I was optimistic that the advent 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 wife and the couple's three children have received asylum in Quebec, Canada. The Canadian government has been vocal in its defense of Badawi, along with Amnesty International, the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.
Canada's defense of Badawi was not well received by the kingdom. The Saudi Arabian ambassador to Canada, Naif Bin Bandar al-Sudairi, officially complained, saying in a letter to the Canadian government that, “The kingdom does not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs and rejects ... the attack on the independence of its justice system."
In addition to international government bodies and groups calling on Saudi Arabia to release Badawi, his advocates have launched a campaign on Twitter with #Backlash and #FreeRaif, asking supporters to share pictures of lashes drawn with red lipstick on their back.
The #Backlash group on Twitter now claims that their hashtag is censored in Saudi Arabia.
Despite the growing international support for the cause, the ruling cannot be overturned, except for a pardon from King Salman, which many think is unlikely.