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Clegg criticises Saudi floggings

Britain needs to make clear to Saudi Arabia its disapproval of the "profoundly illiberal, draconian" flogging of a blogger convicted of insulting Islam, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said .

The US - the kingdom's closest international ally - has called for the cancellation of the punishment handed down to Raif Badawi for criticising Saudi Arabia's powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded.

He was flogged 50 times after Friday prayers in the Red Sea city of Jeddah as authorities started carrying out his sentence - the first of 20 weekly public sessions on top of a 10-year jail sentence.

Mr Clegg said he was "not aware" of the individual case when asked about it during a discussion of civil liberties in the wake of the Paris terror attacks but said it was important to be open with allies about "very different" values.

"I haven't heard of it before, but my immediate reflex would be exactly the same: a profoundly, illiberal draconian way to deal with someone who is expressing opinions who may not be agreed with by the Saudi regime but which nonetheless are reasonably held and reasonably expressed," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

"We always have a tension in our dealings with countries where we must deal with them, because there are issues of national interest at stake in doing so, not least security, but clearly where our values are not similar at all.

"And to put it mildly, the values of our country and of Saudi Arabia are very different indeed.

"We need to be open about those differences and absolutely not shirk from expressing them, for instance in this case as well, but not necessarily pulling up the drawbridge to all cooperation. That wouldn't serve our interests either."

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