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Saudi Arabia may pardon blogger: Swiss Foreign Ministry

This May 7, 2015 photo taken in Paris, France, shows people demonstrating in support of Raif Badawi, a Saudi activist sentenced by Riyadh to 1,000 lashes. (AFP photo)

Saudi Arabia may pardon a jailed blogger who has, among other punishments, controversially been sentenced to 1,000 lashes, a Swiss Foreign Ministry official says.

Yves Rossier, a Swiss deputy foreign minister, said on Saturday the ministry had information that a process had been launched for obtaining a pardon from Saudi King Salman for Raif Badawi, who had been  sentenced in late-2014.

"A procedure for a pardon is now under way before the head of state, that is King Salman," Rossier told La Liberté daily.

Badawi is sentenced to a 10-year imprisonment and 1,000 lashes on charges of insulting Islam in a case that triggered international outrage. The activist received 50 lashings as the first part of his punishment in January but was spared further lashings as governments and rights group piled up pressure on Riyadh over the case.

In his online writings, the activist called for more freedom in Saudi Arabia, a country having one of the worst records in human rights and freedom of expression. Saudi Arabia is the number one country in the world in terms of beheadings in the world.

Meanwhile, a major rights organization in Switzerland on Friday awarded to Badawi’s lawyer, Walid Abulkhair, the prestigious Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize.

Jailed Saudi lawyer and human rights activist Walid Abulkhair

Abulkhair himself was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison on charges of trying to undermine the state and insulting the judiciary.

“We hope that this prize will play a role in the liberation of certain people,” said Jean-Marc Carnice, head of the Geneva bar association, adding, “It will in any case shed light on the abuse of certain governments, to bring them to the attention of the international community.”

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