Raif Baddawi

A Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes received the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes today (Friday) in a public flogging that commenced after morning prayers outside a mosque in Jiddah.

London-based human rights group Amnesty International said Raif Baddawi will receive 50 lashes once a week for the next 20 weeks.

Amnesty International condemned the sentence as cruel and inhumane punishment.

“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.

A witness told the Associated Press Baddawi remained silent throughout the lashings.

Baddawi was arrested in 2012 for creating an online forum called Free Saudi Liberals. The website is now shuttered.

Baddawi was originally sentenced in 2013 to 7 years in prison and 600 lashes, but after losing his appeal, the judge stiffened his sentence. He was also ordered to pay a $266,000 USD fine.

In addition to losing the appeal, the judge threw Baddawi’s lawyer in prison for 15 years and barred him from traveling for another 15 years after his sentence is completed. The judge slapped the lawyer with a litany of charges including “inciting public opinion” and “insulting the judiciary.”

Baddawi, who has been held in prison since mid-2012, called his family from prison to inform them of his upcoming public flogging.

Following his arrest, Baddawi’s wife and children fled to Canada to start a new life.

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