MP Irwin Cotler, Liberal Critic for Rights and Freedoms and International Justice and international counsel to blogger and political prisoner Raif Badawi, today issued the following statement, one year after Raif was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes by Saudi Arabia:
“The unjust detention and cruel treatment of Raif Badawi constitute a standing violation of international law, and a frontal assault on the fundamental freedoms of religion and speech. Less than a week since World Press Freedom Day, on which we recognize the courage of those who persist in the exercise of their freedom of journalistic expression despite intimidation and violence, the anniversary of Raif’s sentence is particularly poignant. Indeed, Raif has recently received PEN Canada’s One Humanity Award and Deutsche Welle’s first-ever Freedom of Speech Award.
It has been encouraging to witness the galvanization of people around the world in support of Raif’s case and cause. Indeed, over the last few months in Parliament, I have tabled petitions signed by many Canadians calling on the government of Canada to use all necessary diplomatic means to secure Raif’s release and reunification with his family in Quebec.
It is encouraging as well that the House of Commons has passed a unanimous motion denouncing Raif’s reprehensible treatment and demanding his immediate release.
Yet, until Raif is free, we must continue to call on the Canadian government to make direct and urgent appeals to Saudi Arabia on Raif’s behalf. Canada must be unambiguous in demanding not mere clemency, but outright release and exoneration for Raif and for his lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, without condition and without delay.”