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Saudi Blogger Calls Survival After 50 Lashes 'Miracle'

FILE - An Amnesty International activist holds a picture of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi during a protest against his flogging punishment, in front of Saudi Arabia's embassy in Berlin, Germany, January 29, 2015.

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has described in his first public remarks from prison how he “miraculously survived 50 lashes” as part of a conviction that sparked an international outcry, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 for offenses including insulting Islam, cybercrime and disobeying his father, which is a crime in Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced last year to 10 years in jail, a fine of 1 million riyals ($266,000) and 1,000 lashes.

In his remarks, Badawi recalled how he received the first round of lashes in January while surrounded by a cheering crowd that chanted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest), Der Spiegel said.

“All this cruel suffering happened to me only because I expressed my opinion,” Badawi was quoted as saying in what the magazine said was his first letter since being jailed.

“He's in a poor condition,” the magazine quoted his wife, Ensaf Haidar, as saying, adding that her husband suffered from high blood pressure and that he was mentally very stressed.

Book due soon

Badawi's remarks are the preface of a book titled “1,000 Lashes: Why I Say What I Think,” due to be published in Germany on April 1.

Der Spiegel said the German government had warned against publication of the book because it could put the blogger's life at risk, though Berlin and the publisher denied this.

A German diplomat told Reuters that Badawi was free to publish in Germany whatever he liked, but added: “The ministry cannot predict the consequences of such a publication for him.”

Publisher Siv Bublitz from Ullstein Buchverlage said in a statement late Friday that the company had “confidential contacts” with the German government on the Badawi book project.

“At no time have we felt that the exchange was an attempt by the foreign ministry to prevent our publication or to complicate it,” Bublitz said.

In another statement issued Saturday, the publisher said Badawi had dictated his remarks to his wife on the phone and that the preface therefore should not be called a letter, as described in earlier statements from the publisher.

Human rights groups and several Western governments have called on Riyadh to cancel the sentence of 1,000 lashes.

Germany's economy minister and vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, said during a visit to Riyadh this month that he had discussed human rights issues in Saudi Arabia and had suggested a pardon for Badawi.