Three children of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who has been behind bars over the past five years, have appealed for his release, describing their father’s incarceration as unfair.
Badawi was arrested in June 2012 and sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison for creating an online forum for public debate and accusations that he insulted Islam.
He was also ordered to pay a fine of one million Saudi riyals ($270,000) and sentenced to 1,000 lashes, the first 50 of which were meted out in a public square in the Saudi city of Jeddah in January 2015.
The remaining lashes have so far been postponed because, Badawi relayed to his family, he was not deemed “fit enough to be whipped again.”
Badawi is subject to two further penalties, including a ten-year travel ban and a ten-year ban on engaging in electronic, visual and written media, which would be enforced upon his release.
In a video released by Amnesty International on Saturday, Badawi’s daughter Najwa said, "It's not fair that our father is in prison. He's not killed anybody. He just created a blog. It's not illegal.”
Miriyam, the blogger’s other daughter, said, “We’ve had enough. We have waited too long. We need to see our daddy.”
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, and his three children have been living in Canada since 2013.
In a relevant development on Friday, Middle East Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International Samah Hadid said the harsh punishment of Badawi demonstrated Saudi authorities’ “blatant contempt for freedom of expression and the extent to which they are willing to go to crush all forms of dissent.”
“Saudi Arabian authorities must ensure his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression,” she added.
The European Parliament gave Badawi its 2015 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
International human rights organizations have lashed out at Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They accuse the Riyadh regime of having persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.