After 10 years in Saudi jail, Raif Badawi’s family have hopes of imminent release


Jailed dissident was sentenced to a 10-year prison term and 1,000 lashes in 2012 for writings that Saudi authorities perceived as promoting liberal values.

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The family of Raif Badawi the human rights blogger who has been languishing for 10 years in a Saudi Arabian prison, is hopeful he will soon be reunited with them in Sherbrooke.

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“I live in hope,” said Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, in an interview on the digital radio station QUB on Tuesday. “But it has been so long. We have been waiting 10 years. It’s enough.”

The jailed dissident was sentenced to a 10-year prison term and 1,000 lashes in 2012 for writings that Saudi authorities perceived as promoting liberal values. His official sentence for him was up on Feb. 28, raising expectations he could soon be freed.

Badawi was given the first 50 lashes during a public flogging in 2015, but was spared more physical punishment after international condemnation. He was also fined $340,000.

If he’s released, he will join Haidar and their three children, now 18, 17 and 14 years old, in Sherbrooke.

“They don’t have a lot of memories of him because when I left Saudi Arabia, my children were very young,” Haidar said. “The youngest was three and a half and the oldest was eight and a half.”

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She said she and her children have been “counting the years, the months, the weeks, the days, and now the hours” until the prison sentence expired. Badawi was also forbidden from leaving Saudi Arabia for 10 years after his prison sentence was served, but Haidar said she hopes the Saudi regime will nonetheless allow him to leave, because of the international outcry.

For the past seven years, Haidar has held weekly vigils for her husband in Sherbrooke, and similar vigils have been held in cities in Europe. She said her family de ella has taken hope and courage from the support they have received from the public.

“In all weather, they are always there. It has been touching for me and for Raif also. He takes courage from that.”

In Ottawa, a Bloc Québécois bill asking the Canadian government to grant Badawi citizenship was adopted unanimously in the House of Commons on Monday.

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Since his imprisonment in 2012, Badawi has received many awards, including the Sakharov prize from the European Parliament, honorary membership in PEN International, and the Press Freedom Prize by Reporters without Borders.

He was a nominee for a Nobel Prize both in 2015 and 2016.

Irwin Cotler, an international human rights lawyer, emeritus professor at McGill University and founder and chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, said he has been advocating to have Saudi Arabia release him.

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