OTTAWA: Canada’s top diplomat on Wednesday voiced concern at the flogging of a Saudi blogger for “insulting Islam” and urged Riyadh to show clemency.
Raef Badawi, 31, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison as well as 1,000 lashes.
He received a first instalment of 50 lashes last Friday and is expected to have 20 weekly whipping sessions until his punishment is complete.
His wife Ensaf Haidar, who sought asylum in Canada with her three children after Badawi was jailed in June 2012, has called for his release.
Ottawa condemned the punishment and called for a pardon.
“Canada is deeply concerned by the public flogging of Raef Badawi. This punishment is a violation of human dignity and freedom of expression, and we call for clemency in this case,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement.
It is the first time Canada has spoken out publicly in his case.
Though Badawi is not Canadian, “the promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy… we will continue to make our position known, both publicly and through diplomatic channels,” Baird said.
“Canada has an active partnership and candid relationship with Saudi Arabia, and believes it can play a positive role in many of the region’s security challenges. We will maintain an ongoing, respectful dialogue with Saudi Arabia on a number of issues, including human rights,” Baird added.
On Tuesday in Montreal, Badawi’s wife defended his actions.
“My husband, Raef Badawi, is imprisoned for simply expressing liberal ideas,” Haidar told reporters.