The United States is asking Saudi Arabia to drop its sentence of 1,000 lashes for a liberal Saudi blogger, calling the punishment "brutal" and "inhumane."
Raif Badawi, who was charged with offenses including insulting Islam, is scheduled to receive the first 50 lashes in a public flogging after Friday prayers in the Red Sea coastal city of Jiddah. The blogger, who has been in custody since his 2012 arrest, was sentenced in May to the flogging and 10 years in jail. The Jiddah Criminal Court also ordered him to pay a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals, about $266,000.
In Washington, the State Department on Thursday asked Saudi authorities to cancel the sentence of 1,000 lashes. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki urged Saudi officials to review Badawi's case and punishment.
"We are greatly concerned by reports that human rights activist Raif Badawi will start facing the inhumane punishment of 1,000 lashes, in addition to serving a 10-year sentence in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion,” Psaki said. "… The United States strongly opposes laws, including apostasy laws, that restrict the exercise of these freedoms, and urges all countries to uphold these rights in practice."
Badawi also had been charged with cyber crime and disobeying his father and his faith, Reuters reported. The news agency said he had run the Free Saudi Liberals website, which included articles critical of Saudi religious leaders and historical Muslim figures. The site has been shut down, according to the Associated Press.
A representative for Amnesty International said the organization was aware of Badawi’s expected flogging. The human rights group said flogging "violates the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment in international law."
Badawi is scheduled to receive 50 lashes a week for 20 weeks, Amnesty International has reported.
Some information for this report was contributed by the Associated Press and by Reuters.