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Canada: Call on Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson to intervene on behalf of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia

    February 23, 2015

    The Honourable Rob Nicholson
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    125 Sussex Drive
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0G2

    February 23, 2015

    Dear Minister Nicholson,

    We are writing this Open Letter with a request that you personally intervene on behalf of Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes, a ten year prison term and other punishments simply because he believes in and has exercised his right to freedom of expression.

    We write further to similar requests we directed to former Minister Baird on 15 January and to Prime Minister Harper on 28 January. We have consistently called for action at the most senior levels of the Canadian government for several reasons.

    * There is a strong Canadian connection to Mr. Badawi’s case, by virtue of the fact that his wife Ensaf Haidar and their three young children have been granted refugee status and permanent residence in Canada and now reside in Sherbrooke, Quebec. 

    * Canada has a close relationship with Saudi Arabia on many fronts; including the recent multi-billion dollar deal for the sale of armoured vehicles by London, Ontario based General Dynamics.

    * The issues of freedom expression at stake in the case, including the relationship with freedom of religion, are urgent and timely, and are rights that Canada has long worked to promote and uphold.

    * Canadians across the country have made it clear that they are deeply concerned about Mr. Badawi’s case.  More than 165,000 Canadians have signed petitions calling for his release.  That number continues to rise daily.

    Raif Badawi’s particularly brutal punishment of 1,000 lashes, a form of torture, is to be delivered over the course of twenty weeks, fifty lashes at a time.  Mr. Badawi was subjected to the first round of fifty lashes on 9 January.  Since that time each week the lashes have not gone ahead.  On two occasions officials indicated it was for medical reasons.  Other times there has been no explanation.  As you can imagine, Minister, the anxiety for Mr. Badawi and for his family each week, wondering if the flogging will take place, is particularly cruel.

    There remain two critical and overarching objectives in Mr. Badawi’s case.  First, Saudi officials must be pressed to withdraw and end the penalty of flogging.   Second, Mr. Badawi must be immediately and unconditionally released from prison.

    Amnesty International urges you to press those two demands with Saudi officials, both here in Ottawa and in Saudi Arabia, at all levels of government.  We urge that you do so directly with your own counterpart, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, and with other ministers.  We also ask that you raise with Prime Minister Harper the importance of his own personal intervention, in particular with new Saudi King Salman.

    We would welcome an opportunity to meet with you to discuss this case further.

    Sincerely,

      

    Béatrice Vaugrante    
    Directrice Générale    
    Amnistie internationale Canada francophone       

    Alex Neve
    Secretary General
    Amnesty International Canada
    (English branch)

     

    For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations
    (613)744-7667 #236 jtackaberry@amnesty.ca

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