Eyewitness account: 'He was silent but you could tell that he was in real pain’
An eyewitness account of the flogging today of Raif Badawi an activist in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website for public debate. The witness has not been named for security reasons.
When the worshippers saw the police van outside the mosque, they knew someone would be flogged today.
They gathered in a circle. Passers-by joined them and the crowd grew. But no one knew why the man brought forward was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray?
Raif Badawi had been brought to the square in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah just after midday. There was a huge security presence – not just accompanying Raif but also in the streets and around the mosque. Some roads had also been closed.
Raif was escorted from a bus and placed in the middle of the crowd, guarded by eight or nine officers. He was handcuffed and shackled but his face was not covered – everyone could see his face.
Still shackled, Raif stood up in the middle of the crowd. He was dressed in what looked like a pair of trousers and a shirt.
A security officer approached him from behind with a huge cane and started beating him.
Raif raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arching his back. He was silent, but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain.
The officer beat Raif on his back and legs, counting the lashes until they reached 50.
The punishment took about 5 minutes. It was very quick, with no break in between lashes.
When it was over, the crowd shouted, “Allah-hu Akbar! Allah-hu Akbar!” – as if Raif had been purified.
Raif was taken away in the bus, back to prison. The whole scene had lasted less than half an hour.