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Irwin Cotler, MP



Press Release: All-Party Press Conference Calling for Release of Raif Badawi

Posted on January 29, 2015

For immediate release


Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes by Saudi Arabia

Ottawa – January 29, 2015 – Ensaf Haidar joined today with Parliamentarians from all parties, as well as with representatives of Amnesty International, to call for the release of Ms. Haidar’s husband, Raif Badawi. MPs Irwin Cotler (Liberal), Wayne Marston (NDP), and Pierre-Luc Dusseault (NDP) addressed the media, while Sen. Raynell Andreychuk (Conservative), MP Joy Smith (Conservative), MP Judy Sgro (Liberal) and MP Elizabeth May (Green) sent statements of support.

Detained by Saudi Arabia since 2012, Mr. Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for establishing an online forum and exercising his right to free expression. Saudi Arabia administered the first 50 lashes on January 9, but has postponed subsequent lashings, citing Mr. Badawi’s medical condition. The next lashing is scheduled for tomorrow, January 30.

Ms. Haidar, who lives with her three children in Sherbrooke, Quebec, was in Ottawa as part of a day of action drawing attention to her husband’s plight and urging the Canadian government to intervene to secure his freedom. Following the press conference, she participated in a march from Parliament Hill to the Saudi embassy, and met with Parliamentarians.

Mr. Cotler, who is serving as Raif Badawi’s international legal counsel, called his treatment “a standing violation of Saudi Arabia’s obligations under international law, a frontal assault on the fundamental freedoms of religion and speech, and an affront to the conscience of humanity.”

Said Mr. Marston, “It is absolutely crucial that the Canadian government make every effort to guarantee Raif Badawi’s release, to ensure that he is reunited with his family as soon as possible and that he is not subjected to any more punishment.”

Said Ms. Sgro, “To see this level of barbarism in this day and age is shameful. Not only is this punishment a violation of Saudi Arabia’s obligations under international law, it is a violation of basic human dignity. It is time for Saudi Arabia to put an end to this kind of state-sanctioned brutality and to reform its justice system in ways that respect human rights and international obligations.”

“I will always be a strong advocate of freedom of expression,” said Pierre-Luc Dusseault, MP for Sherbrooke. “I ask the government and the international community to act to free Raif Badawi.”

“The punishment and detention of Raif Badawi by the Saudi government is an egregious abuse of basic human rights,” added Joy Smith, MP for Kildonan-St. Paul. “I join my colleagues today in calling for the immediate release of Raif Badawi so he can be reunited with his family. ”

“I join my fellow parliamentarians in expressing concern for the health and safety of Raif Badawi,” said Sen. Andreychuk.

“The severe and brutal treatment of Mr. Badawi is a violation of fundamental human rights,” said Ms. May. “Canada must do more to secure his release.”


Contact:           Michael Milech

Office of Hon. Irwin Cotler