Authorities arrested Raif Badawi (pronounced Ra-eef Ba-da-wee) on 17 June 2012. They charged him with insulting Islam and creating the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” website for social and political debate. The charges related to articles Raif wrote criticizing religious figures.
Raif Badawi’s case bounced back and forth between courts until 7 May 2014. On that day, the Criminal Court pronounced a sentence of 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals (about $290,000 CDN). After he serves a decade in jail, he is also forbidden to travel for the following decade and from participating in the media.
While international pressure appears to have brought a halt to the flogging after the first 50 of 1,000 lashes in January 2015, Raif Badawi remains behind bars facing an uncertain future. By the end of April his case had been transferred from the Criminal Court back to the Supreme Court.
Raif Badawi isn’t the only person in Saudi Arabia detained for simply exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. In August 2018, Raif's sister was arrested, along with Nassima al-Sada, who had been campaigning for women's right to drive. Amnesty International is extremely concerned about the intensified crackdown on freedom of expression in the country.