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Wounds prevent further public lashings for Saudi blogger

By Staff Reporter

Saudi authorities have postponed the second round of public flogging of a blogger convicted of insulting Islam, citing medical reasons, according to a leading human rights group.

Amnesty International said authorities delayed administering 50 lashings to Raif Badawi, set to take place yesterday after midday prayers, because his wounds from last week's flogging had not yet healed properly.

Mr Badawi was sentenced in May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticised Saudi Arabia's powerful clerics on the liberal blog he founded.

Mr Badawi's first public flogging took place last Friday before dozens of people in the Red Sea city of Jiddah.

The father-of-three was taken to a square outside a mosque in Jeddah, whipped on his back and legs, and taken back to prison.

His case has now been referred to the Supreme Court by the king's office, it's been reported. Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haider said the referral, made before he was flogged 50 times last Friday, gave him hope that officials would end his punishment.

The blogger told his wife that he wanted to appear strong during his flogging last week.

"He could hear them shouting 'Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar' (God is great) - he wanted to show his strength," she said.

The punishment of Badawin has caused international outcry and been widely condemned by human rights groups and foreign governments.

Badawi established Liberal Saudi Network, a now-closed online forum that sought to encourage debate on religious and political matters in 2008.

In 2012, he was arrested in Jeddah and charged with "insulting Islam through electronic channels" and "going beyond the realm of obedience".

In 2013 he was cleared of apostasy, which could have carried a death sentence.

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict version of Islamic law and does not tolerate political dissent.

It has some of the highest social media usage rates in the region, and has cracked down on domestic online criticism, imposing harsh punishments.

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