10 February 2016
MEP Mark Demesmaeker, the European Conservatives and Reformists’ (ECR) spokesperson on human rights, met the Saudi Minister of Justice, Dr. Walid bin Mohammad bin Saleh Al-Samaani.
MEP Mark Demesmaeker, the European Conservatives and Reformists’ (ECR) spokesperson on human rights, met the Saudi Minister of Justice, Dr. Walid bin Mohammad bin Saleh Al-Samaani. Demesmaeker asked him personally to release the blogger Raif Badawi. “A release still seems taboo. Stopping the thousand lashes, however, is indeed an option now,” says Demesmaeker. “Obviously this is still largely insufficient, but it would be an important step in the right direction.”
Demesmaeker has been in Saudi Arabia since Sunday. Together with the Committee on Foreign Affairs, he has met several dignitaries: “We spoke with the Saudi Minister of Justice. I asked him directly for the release of Badawi. A man like Badawi doesn’t belong behind bars and no one deserves such a brutal treatment.”
The Saudi minister didn’t reply to Demesmaeker’s request for release. But he would consider stopping the lashing, if Badawi’s medical condition would require this. “I didn’t get a clear promise. But we must embrace each step that can improve the inhuman situation of Badawi. I will keep on fighting for his release and will continue to engage in a direct dialogue with the Saudi government.”
Badawi was arrested in 2012 because, according to the Saudi government, he “insulted Islam” in his blogs. The 31-year-old blogger was sentenced to a prison term of ten years and a thousand lashes. In mid-December he received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, which is annually awarded to a champion of freedom of thought.
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