Monday, November 7, 2016

Canada has been unable to obtain release of Saudi blogger

Canada's Foreign Minister Stephane Dion had requested Saudi Arabia to release blogger Raif Badawi so he could join his family in Canada. However, Saudi ambassador Naif Bin Bandir AlSudairy, said the request was refused.

AlSudairy said that the case had nothing to do with relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia. Badawi is a Saudi citizen not a Canadian. However, his wife, Ensaf Haider, sought asylum in Canada with their three children after she received death threats in Saudi Arabia. Canada granted them asylum.
Badawi was arrested back in 2012 on charges of insulting Islam through his blog. He was found guilty given a hefty fine a 10-year prison sentence and 1,000 lashes. The first 50 lashes were administered in January of 2015 resulting in considerable outrage in some western countries. The Saudis were dismayed and in a statement rejected the criticism: "The statement said Saudi courts were independent and that the kingdom's constitution ensured the protection of human rights because it was based on Islamic Sharia law." The legal system is not government run it is true. It is in the hands of religious authorities who enforce laws that are draconian and violate human rights:In a new law last year it included atheism as a terrorist offence. It uses the death penalty for offences including blasphemy, apostasy and witchcraft. The kingdom has beheaded 40 people so far in 2015, rights watchdog Amnesty International said this week, based on local media reports.
A brief description of the Saudi legal system can be found on Wikipedia. While most courts are based on Sharia law, there is also a Specialized Criminal Court that deals with terrorists as well as human rights activists. It is this court that dealt with Badawi.
The second set of floggings have already been postponed 12 times. Previous delays have resulted from the fact that Badawi is in poor health. He is known to have hypertension and his health worsened after the first floggings. His wife claims that he will not be able to survive further floggings. Dion told reporters that it would be unacceptable for Badawi to be flogged again, after recent reports that Badawi was about to be flogged. Dion insisted that the Saudi government show clemency and release Badawi to join his family in Canada. Dion noted that since Badawi was not a Canadian citizen Badawi's case was treated as a humanitarian concern. The Saudi ambassador said he had no information as to whether Badawi was to be soon the subject of more flogging and maintained: “Mr. Badawi is a Saudi citizen, [and] has nothing to do with the relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia.”
The Canadian government has already faced criticism for selling armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Critics claim the vehicles could be used against citizens or in the war in neighboring Yemen. The Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent agreed with Dion's position but noted that Canada's relations with Saudi Arabia were "complicated". He said the Saudis were allies in the fight against the Islamic State and also an important trading partner. Kent suggested that Dion use an upcoming vote in the UN on Saudi Arabia's membership in the UN Human Rights Council as leverage to encourage Badawi's release. A recent tweet says: Trudeau says he's met Raif Badawi's wife, and has "engaged w/" Min Stephane Dion to ensure he's doing all he can to obtain Badawi's release.

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