A group of activists, organized by CODEPINK and the Gulf Institute, protested outside of the Saudi Arabian embassy on Thursday. Led by CODEPINK Co-founder Medea Benjamin, they attempted to deliver a petition demanding the release of liberal blogger Raif Badawi.
Benjamin demands the immediate release of Badawi. “[the government] must respect free speech,” Benjamin told News2Share. “I think if there was one phone call from President Obama that said, ‘free Raif Badawi,’ Raif would be free.”
Upon entering the embassy, the protesters were forcefully removed. The protesters continued to picket outside the embassy chanting, “no flogging for blogging” and “journalism is not a crime.” The group continued to protest for about an hour before dispersing.
In June 2012, Badawi was arrested by Saudi Arabian authorities for apostasy, which is defined as the renunciation of a religious belief, and insulting Islam through electronic channels.
After several trials, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of $1,000,000 Riyal ($267,000 USD). After his first set of lashings, Badawi’s case received attention and widespread protest from the international community, who derided the lashes as state sanctioned torture.
Michael Beer, from Nonviolence International, criticized the Saudi government. “Unfortunately, this is the tip of the iceberg in Saudi Arabia,” Beer said. “It is a massive repressive state that restricts free speech.”
The public outcry combined with Badawi’s declining health caused the remainder of the lashes to be postponed. With a recent decision upholding the sentencing by the Saudi Supreme Court, activists are worried. International efforts have continued to grant Badawi amnesty.
Produced by Dominick Mortarotti and Trey Yingst
Edited by Ford Fischer