30-year-old Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was punished in 2013 for starting a progressive website that called for, among other things, religious tolerance and women’s rights. That was insulting to Islam, his critics said, and tomorrow, he will face the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes punishment (he also faces 10 years in jail and owes a 1,000,000 Saudi riyal fine — about $266,000).
The Center for Inquiry, which has worked to secure Badawi’s freedom to no avail, released this statement earlier today:
“It’s not too late for Saudi officials to discover their humanity and make the choice to spare Raif this barbaric cruelty,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI. “The notion that Islam or any religion must be protected from questioning is incompatible with fundamental human rights, and can motivate extremists to engage in outrageous acts, as confirmed by the attacks in Paris. It is human beings who deserve respect, and it is the right to free expression that must be protected.”
Said Lindsay, “We unequivocally demand that Raif not be harmed and that he be released without charge, and we also ask the world community to stand with us in pressuring Saudi Arabia to do the right thing.”
Also, from The Guardian:
“It is horrifying to think that such a vicious and cruel punishment should be imposed on someone who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and north Africa director.