Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who was sentenced under the country’s harsh anti-blasphemy laws to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes along with a fine of over $260,000, was publicly flogged 50 times on Friday. The flogging will continue every Friday until his flogging sentence is completed, according to media reports.
Badawi, creator of “Free Saudi Liberals” — a website that reportedly critiqued religion and its growing influence on Saudi Arabia’s government — was arrested in June 2012 and had initially been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes by a Saudi court. However, an appeals court later overturned the sentence, ordered a retrial and handed down a 10-year prison sentence and 1,000 lashes spread over 20 weeks, according to media reports.
According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 14 out of 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa have anti-blasphemy and anti-apostasy laws. Saudi Arabia, where the two crimes are punishable by up to a death sentence, frequently convicts people for alleged insults to religion.
And, because Saudi Arabia does not have a written penal code, judges often issue verdicts based on subjective interpretation of the Quran and the Sharia — the Islamic religious law.