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Jailed Saudi blogger's health deteriorating

People demonstrate in support of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi in Paris on May 7, 2015. ©AFP

A Saudi blogger, who is in jail for criticizing the kingdom’s extremist Wahhabi ideology, is suffering from deteriorating health condition due to a hunger strike, his wife says.

“I am very worried about him. His health, both physical and mental, is very poor,” Raif Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar said on Thursday.

Haidar also said she hoped her husband would end the hunger strike he had started early last month after being transferred to a new prison in the country.

Badawi has been jailed by Riyadh since 2012. The 31-year-old was found guilty of insulting the Wahhabi ideology and breaking the kingdom’s technology laws in 2014. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes as well as $266,000 in cash fine and a 10-year ban on overseas travel.

Criticism of Wahabism is viewed as a serious offense by Riyadh as the influential Saudi clerics who preach the ideology play an instrumental role in supporting the regime.

Badawi’s flogging is to be carried out in 20 sessions in front of a mosque. He received his first 50 lashes last January.

Ensaf Haidar holds a picture of her husband Raif Badawi after accepting the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on her husband’s behalf in Strasbourg on December 16, 2015. ©AFP

Haidar also said she spoke to her husband two weeks ago and received information about his health condition through a Saudi contact.

She said she was optimistic about her husband’s release after Swiss Secretary of Foreign Affairs Yves Rossier said in November 2015 that Badawi might receive a royal pardon.

However, Badawi’s transfer to a new prison shortly afterwards was not anticipated and this led to the jailed activist’s hunger strike, Haidar added.

“This was a surprise and counter to what we had heard. I hope that this hunger strike is not a sign that he has given up,” she noted.

On December 16, Haidar received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on her husband’s behalf from the European Parliament.

International human rights organizations have lashed out at Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They say the rulers in Riyadh has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.

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