Raif Badawi, a 30-year-old blogger and activist, was flogged 50 times yesterday after Friday prayers in the first session of his flogging that will last 19 weeks and see him be lashed a total of 1,000 times.
Badawi, who was flogged in public outside a mosque in Jeddah by Saudi Arabian authorities, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of $US266,600 on charges of insulting Islam.
The accusations that he insulted Islam were the result of his creation of an online forum, ‘Liberal Saudi Network,’ that aimed to foster public debate.
According to Elham Manea on Twitter, Badawi remained largely silent during his first 50 lashes.
Ahead of the flogging, Amnesty International condemned sentencing of Raif Badawi, saying he was a prisoner of conscience.
“The news that Raif Badawi’s flogging will start tomorrow is shocking. The Saudi Arabian authorities must immediately halt all plans to carry out this brutal sentence. Flogging and other forms of corporal punishment are prohibited under international law, which prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International.
“It is horrifying to think that such a vicious and cruel punishment should be imposed on someone who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression.”
Saudi Arabia enforces the strictest version of Islam and has often cracked down harshly on political dissent.
Since 2014, Saudi Arabia has beheaded more than 80 people on various charges.