Raif Badawi, a prominent blogger and human rights defender in Saudi Arabia, was finally released from prison on March 11, 2022.
Human rights defender faces a travel ban
“The release of Raif Badawi after being imprisoned in Saudi Arabia is a great relief, but does not erase the cruel treatment Raif suffered or the injustice of his imprisonment. The Saudi authorities must ensure that he is not subject to any other punitive measures, such as a ban on travel or the use of social media,” said Colette Lelièvre, head of campaigns at Amnistie Internationale Canada.
Raif Badawi is still stuck in Saudi Arabia, as he is currently banned from leaving the country for the next ten years while his family lives in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He is also banned from using social media for the next ten years, which greatly limits his ability to express himself.
Raif must be allowed to reunite with his family in Canada. Amnesty International calls for the travel and social media bans to be lifted from Raif and other affected human rights activists in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabian crackdown on human rights activists
Raif Badawi was detained on June 17, 2012, and sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison, followed by a 10-year travel ban and a 1 million Saudi Arabian riyal (about USD 267,000) fine for creating an online forum for public debate and accusations that he insulted Islam. He was also sentenced to a cruel and inhuman punishment of 1,000 lashes. The first 50 meted out in a public square in Jeddah in January 2015.
Over the last few years, the Saudi Arabian authorities have invested heavily in public relations stunts to rebrand their image and attempt to deflect attention from their brutal crackdown on activists and human rights defenders. However, there was a brief lull in executions and prosecutions of activists during Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20 summit, which ended immediately after the event when the authorities ramped up their repression once again.
Dozens of people are currently incarcerated in Saudi Arabia for their activism, human rights work or for expressing dissenting views. Human rights defenders who have been released from prison, such as Raif Badawi, remain subject to court orders banning travel and social media use.