January 8, 2015 / 6:54 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. asks Saudis to cancel 1,000-lash sentence for liberal activist

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States asked Saudi Arabian authorities on Thursday to cancel a sentence of 1,000 lashes given to a liberal activist.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Saudis should review the case of Raif Badawi, who was arrested in June 2012 and charged with offenses including cyber crime, disobeying his father and disobeying his faith. He was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison, a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals ($266,666) and 1,000 lashes.

Amnesty International said Badawi was to undergo the first round of 50 lashes in a public flogging on Friday.

“We are greatly concerned by reports that human rights activist Raif Badawi will start facing the inhumane punishment of a 1,000 lashes, in addition to serving a 10-year sentence in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion,” Psaki said in a statement.

“The United States government calls on Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case and sentence.”

Badawi had run a website called Free Saudi Liberals that included articles critical of senior Saudi religious figures and others from Muslim history.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott, Bernard Orr

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