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Appeal to free flogged blogger from Saudi jail

As trade unionists who support free speech, we wish to condemn the treatment of blogger Raif Badawi by the Saudi Arabian regime.

Badawi is being flogged and may be facing charges that carry the death penalty. His "crime" was to set up a blog in Saudi Arabia.

He envisaged this blog, Saudi Arabian Liberals, as a forum for political and social debate. Here, we rightly welcome such blogs. Raif faced criminal charges for content he posted to it.

A Saudi court sentenced him to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a fine of one million Saudi Riyal (£174,000) and banned him from using any kind of media, or travelling until 2034.

His first conviction was overturned on appeal, so the Saudi government returned to court and re-imposed the punishment. A court also cleared him of apostasy. A judge is threatening to reopen this charge, which carries the death penalty.

Badawi is due to be publicly flogged 50 times every week after Friday prayers until the sentence of 1,000 lashes is carried out.

He suffers from diabetes. As a result of his medical condition, his wounds from the floggings are healing very slowly. Saudi doctors have expressed concern as to his medical condition.

We ask the Saudi authorities to halt the barbaric punishment and to free this prisoner of conscience.

Anton McCabe, Secretary, Omagh Trades Union Council

Olive Wylie, Chairperson, Omagh Trades Union Council

Eamonn McCann, National Executive Council, National Union of Journalists

Anna McGonigle Former President, National Union of Public Employees (for verification – tel 07761640291)

Annmarie Conway, Chairman, Northern Committee, Irish National Teachers Organisation

Felicity McCall, Vice- Chairperson, Irish Executive Council, National Union of Journalists.

Viv Brady, Secretary, Community and Voluntary Branch, UNISON

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