Saudi Arabia confirms 10-year travel ban for freed blogger Raif Badawi

Mr Raif Badawi was arrested and detained in Saudi Arabia in 2012 on charges of "insulting Islam". PHOTO: AFP

RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi Arabia confirmed on Saturday (March 12) a 10-year travel ban for freed blogger and human rights activist Raif Badawi, who has become a symbol of freedom of expression around the world.

"The sentence handed down to Mr Badawi was 10 years in prison followed by a travel ban for the same length of time. The court ruling holds up and is final," an Interior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

"Therefore, he cannot leave the kingdom for another 10 years unless a (royal) pardon is issued," said the official, a day after Mr Badawi was released from detention.

Mr Badawi, now 38, was arrested and detained in Saudi Arabia in 2012 on charges of "insulting Islam".

At the end of 2014, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 50 lashes a week for twenty weeks.

His first flogging in the kingdom's Jeddah Square shocked the world and was described by the United Nations as "cruel and inhuman". After the outcry, he was not lashed again.

On Friday, Mr Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with their three children, told AFP: "Raif called me. He is free."

It was later confirmed by a Saudi security official, but details of Mr Badawi's release were not revealed.

Amnesty International said on Friday it would "actively work to have any conditions lifted", noting that Mr Badawi could face a 10-year travel ban.

Mr Badawi's sister, Ms Samar Badawi, as well as activist Nassima al-Sadah, released in 2021, also remain stranded in the kingdom.

Canada's Quebec province has paved the way for Mr Badawi to come to the country if he chooses by placing him on a priority list of potential immigrants for humanitarian reasons.

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