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Supporters of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi fear flogging set to resume

Ensaf Haidar stands next to a poster of a book of articles written by the imprisoned Saudi blogger and Haidar's husband, Raif Badawi, on June 16, 2015 in Montreal. Supporters of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi are sounding the alarm that his flogging could soon resume. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
October 19, 2016 - 6:06 AM

MONTREAL - Supporters of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi are sounding the alarm that his flogging could soon resume.

The Montreal-based foundation that bears Badawi's name said this week it has it on good authority his punishment will begin again.

The information comes from a "private source" who is the same person who informed Badawi's family in Canada about the first series of lashes in January 2015.

Evelyne Abitbol, the foundation's executive director, conceded Tuesday it isn't known for sure if or when the lashes will resume. Nonetheless, the organization found the information credible enough to convey it publicly.

"We believe this information is right because it came from the same source," Abitbol said. "We thought: If we don't do anything and he is flogged, we would not be happy about not alerting the international community."

The blogger was sentenced to 10 years in jail, 1,000 lashes and a large fine following a 2014 conviction for his criticism of Saudi clerics.

Badawi, who was arrested in 2012, received the first 50 lashes but is not believed to have had any since for health reasons.

Supporters are urging the Saudi government to stop the punishment and allow him to rejoin his family.

Badawi is not a Canadian citizen but his wife Ensaf Haidar and their three children live in Sherbrooke, Que.

Amnesty International's Quebec branch says it is trying to independently verify the information about Badawi.

Anne Ste-Marie, a spokeswoman for the human-rights organization, says its team on the ground in Saudi Arabia is looking into it.

Badawi's imprisonment has drawn widespread condemnation in Canada and abroad.

Earlier this month, Haidar was in Ottawa and implored Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to help.

In December, Trudeau said he wasn't ready to directly intervene in the case.

Ottawa has sought clemency for Badawi and pressed Saudi officials about the case, but is stymied because he isn't a Canadian citizen.

On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Badawi's case was a humanitarian one and not consular, but assured he was taking it "very seriously."

"We are trying to get the most accurate information possible because, obviously, if proven true, it would be shameful," he said in Ottawa. "You do not treat a human being that way."

Dion says Canada's offer to take in Badawi still stands.

In Quebec City, the provincial legislature unanimously adopted a motion denouncing the lashing.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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