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Raif Badawi released | “It’s a great day”

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A page turns for the Saudi blogger Raïf Badawi. The man who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for having published a blog criticizing the policies of Saudi Arabia was finally released on Friday, to the delight of his wife and family. But uncertainty remains for the future.

“This morning, it’s really a mix of emotions. Surprise, joy, relief: it all happened suddenly, ”launched Mme Haidar shortly afterwards, in an interview with The Press Friday. She says her husband’s release is “good news for everyone” in Canada and around the world. “It’s a great day. We are really very happy, very happy. At last ! she exclaimed.

According to our information, it was Raïf Badawi himself who informed his spouse of his release, by calling her from the detention center where he was. For now, the family will not comment on the steps to bring Mr. Badawi to Canada. “The important thing for me is that he is free. Now we’ll see what we have to do,” his wife said, without giving further details.


PHOTO FRÉDÉRIC CÔTÉ, LA TRIBUNE

Raif Badawi’s daughter with her mother, Ensaf Haidar

Mr. Badawi could theoretically be released since the end of February. Although his prison sentence has now officially ended, the man remains subject to a 10-year travel ban and a ban on working in the media. He must also pay a punitive fine of $335,000 which was imposed on him at the time of his conviction.

” Great news ”

“This is great news, because he is a true defender of human rights. He is someone who wanted to advance his country, which is one of the most backward countries in terms of equality between men and women,” underlines Pascal Paradis, Director General of Lawyers Without Borders Canada.

We reacted with a lot of emotions, happiness and relief to this announcement. It was hoped for, but unexpected because we had no sign that he was going to be released. We are very, very happy.

France-Isabelle Langlois, Executive Director of Amnesty International Canada

His release represents a “message of hope” for other prisoners, says Mme Langlois. “It is the face that personifies all prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders who have been or are still imprisoned. »


PHOTO ARCHIVES PRESS

Raif Badawi, before his imprisonment

The battle is not over, however, recalls Mme Langlois. Other sanctions still weigh on him, in particular the ban on leaving the country for the next 10 years and on communicating on social networks. “We will continue to work so that these charges are also dropped and that he is as soon as possible here in Quebec with his family,” she concludes.

“Extraordinary Development”

On the Web, the reactions were quick. “We are happy with this extraordinary development and offer our full cooperation to Raïf Badawi and Ensaf Haidar for the rest of things”, indicated in particular the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, who had campaigned with Mr.me Haidar last fall, when she was her party’s candidate in the federal election in Sherbrooke.

” At last ! I keep thinking about the children who will finally find their father, ”also launched the Premier of Quebec, François Legault. “A huge relief for all his family. Hoping from the bottom of my heart that you can meet again soon. We will work together, as has been the case from the start, to make this a reality,” also promised PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon. Mayor Valérie Plante also wished the principal concerned, who had been made an honorary citizen of Montreal in 2018, “to take advantage of his newfound freedom”.

Difficult to imagine what he had to undergo during all his years of detention. I wish him to reconnect as soon as possible with his wife and children, who live here, in Quebec. Living in a democracy is priceless.

Dominique Anglade, leader of the Liberal Party, about Raïf Badawi

Amnesty International Canada, which has been campaigning for his release for years, also spoke on Friday of “long-awaited news”. “Thousands of you have mobilized alongside us in the defense of Raïf Badawi for 10 years. A big thank you to everyone for your tireless support,” the organization told its members.

On June 17, 2012, Raif Badawi was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for publishing a blog discussing social issues in Saudi Arabia. Found guilty, among other things, of insulting Islam, the blogger was also sentenced to 1,000 lashes, of which he received the first 50 in 2015. He would have escaped the others for medical reasons. The conviction of Mr. Badawi had sparked strong indignation on the international scene. Many government organizations as well as advocacy groups have repeatedly called for his release. Last year, the House of Commons and the Senate voted in favor of the Minister of Immigration using his discretionary power to grant Canadian citizenship to Raif Badawi.

With The Canadian Press

The Badawi case in a few dates

2008: Raïf Badawi founds the Free Saudi Liberals website, where he campaigns for the moral liberalization of Saudi Arabia, demanding in particular freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and equality between men and women.

2009: He is accused of creating a website that insults Islam and is forced to leave the country, but the complaint against him is finally dropped.

2010: His sister Samar is imprisoned for disobedience to her father, because she wants to marry the man of her choice. Raïf publicly opposes his father by siding with his sister.

June 2012: He is again accused of having “established a website that compromises general security, ridiculed figures of Islam, disobedience to his father, cybercrime and apostasy”. His lawyer Walid Abou al-Khair is also imprisoned.

July 2013: He is sentenced to 600 lashes and 7 years in prison. Badawi is appealing this decision.

October 2013: Raïf Badawi’s family obtains political asylum in Canada.

May 2014: His appeal is denied and his sentence increased. Badawi is sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison.

January 2015: He receives 50 lashes, which provokes protests from many governments and the UN.

2017: Radio-Canada creates a virtual comic strip telling the story of Raïf Badawi and his wife.

July 2018: The whole family obtains Canadian citizenship.

March 2022: Raïf Badawi is released, but he still cannot leave the country for the next 10 years or communicate on social networks.

Source: Raif Badawi Foundation

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