Raif Badawi case: Efforts to free jailed blogger continue after 7 years


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Greater than seven years after Raif Badawi was thrown in jail, attorneys and allies of the Saudi blogger are more and more lobbying international governments in an effort to safe his launch as Saudi Arabia prepares to host subsequent yr’s G-20 assembly.

Irwin Cotler, a human rights lawyer and former federal justice minister who represents the household internationally, says advocates for Badawi have lately been assembly with international governments, UN representatives and others to encourage them to name for the discharge of Badawi, his sister Samar, their former lawyer Waleed Abulkhair and different imprisoned human rights defenders.

READ MORE: ‘I’ve plenty of hope now’: Spouse of jailed Saudi blogger hails Pence’s name for husband’s launch

Cotler sat down with The Canadian Press to debate the intensifying effort to free the 35-year-old Badawi, who was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his on-line criticism of Saudi clerics.

Cotler stated it’s pressing “to each internationalize and intensify our advocacy” as Saudi Arabia chairs the G-20 forward of the assembly in Riyadh in November 2020.

That effort appeared to yield outcomes final month when U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence referred to as on Saudi Arabia to free Badawi in addition to three different jailed dissidents.

The 4 dissidents, Pence stated, “have stood in defence of non secular liberty and the train of their religion regardless of unimaginable stress, and the American folks stand with them.”

WATCH: Raif Badawi stage protest on fifth-year anniversary of his detention (2017) 

Pence’s assertion adopted one by European Parliament Vice-President Heidi Hautala in June, which describes Badawi’s sentence as “unjust, disproportionate and arbitrary” and urged the Saudi authorities to free him. The European Union awarded Badawi the Sakharov prize, its high human rights award, in 2015.

Cotler sees vital progress within the yr since Canadian International Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s tweet calling for the discharge of Raif and Samar Badawi sparked a diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia. (Whereas neither prisoner is a Canadian citizen, Raif Badawi’s spouse and three youngsters reside in Sherbrooke, Que., and have been granted citizenship final yr.)

The fallout from the tweet noticed Saudi Arabia droop diplomatic ties, halt funding and Canadian imports and threaten to close down scholarships for its residents finding out in Canada. “Not one democracy got here to Canada’s defence,” Cotler stated.

READ MORE: Canada will ‘have interaction’ with Saudi Arabia however gained’t change place on human rights: Trudeau

He stated that whereas he disagreed with Saudi Arabia being awarded G-20 host duties, he believes the Riyadh summit may very well be a chance to extend the stress to free the prisoners – and provides Saudi Arabia the possibility to show it may be a “credible” host.

“If the Crown Prince desires to be taken severely, if Saudi Arabia desires to be seen severely as chair of the G20, he can’t name for reforms – which we assist – concerning ladies, resembling the proper to drive, then imprison the identical ladies who referred to as for the reforms.”

He stated Pence’s assertion got here after he and Badawi’s spouse, Ensaf Haidar, travelled to Washington earlier this yr to fulfill with lawmakers and the USA Fee on Worldwide Non secular Freedom, which has contacts with the vice-president.

READ MORE: Raif Badawi’s sister arrested in Saudi Arabia: Amnesty Worldwide

Cotler believes the homicide of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed after getting into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul final October, was a “wake-up name” for democracies that had beforehand hesitated to talk up in opposition to the Saudi regime.

Greater than eight months after Khashoggi’s demise, a UN particular rapporteur launched a report saying there was “credible proof” to warrant additional investigation and monetary sanctions in opposition to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Efforts by Badawi’s advocates within the coming weeks and months embrace a renewed software for clemency, which argues pardon could be according to Saudi regulation.

WATCH: Canada’s diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia over human rights, as of Aug. 2018

Canada, too, has a component to play, says Cotler, who was Liberal justice minister from 2003-06. He plans to as soon as once more name on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to grant Canadian citizenship to Badawi, which might guarantee he might obtain visits and has “diplomatic safety that isn’t now licensed.”

Badawi’s advocates say that whereas he hasn’t acquired any extra corporal punishment, his well being has declined and he continues to undergo psychologically from the specter of lashings and the separation from his spouse and kids.

READ MORE: ‘I’m a proud Canadian’: Spouse of jailed Saudi blogger sworn in as Canadian citizen

And whereas some consider his jail circumstances could have improved for the reason that worldwide stress escalated, Cotler stated his scenario stays dire.

“There’s a way of urgency,” he stated. “You meet along with his youngsters, and each day the kids can’t be with their father is a loss for him and a loss for them.”

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