Saudi Authorities Should Lift His Travel Ban and Immediately Release All Political Prisoners
(Washington D.C., March 11, 2022) – Saudi authorities released Raif Badawi today after he completed a 10-year prison sentence for "insulting Islam" and violating Saudi Arabia's anti-cybercrime law through publishing "blasphemous writings" on his Facebook page and co-founding the "Free Saudi Liberals" website, which encouraged religious reform and political debate in Saudi Arabia.
Under the terms of his existing sentence, Badawi still faces a 10-year travel ban, a 1 million riyals fine ($266,000 USD), and remains banned from appearing on or working in the media for ten years.
"It's shocking to consider that the Saudi government imprisoned Badawi for 10 years and publicly flogged him simply because he called for religious reform," said Sevag Kechichian, Gulf Researcher for Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). "It won't be enough for the government to release him from prison if it still refuses to allow him to unite with his family in Canada, whom he has not seen for the past 10 years."
Saudi officials detained Badawi on June 17, 2012 and Jeddah's Criminal Court sentenced Badawi on May 7, 2014. Saudi authorities flogged Badawi 50 times in a public square in Jeddah on January 9, 2015. Badawi's sentence included 1,000 lashes, but Saudi authorities backed down from enforcing the corporal punishment after international outrage. The Saudi government finally abolished flogging on April 26, 2020, as the punishment violates international law and consituttes a form of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
DAWN calls on Saudi authorities to release all political prisoners who have done nothing more than peacefully exercise their right to free speech and to allow all arbitrarily travel-banned Saudi citizens the freedom to leave the country.