Blogger who lashed Saudi's strict interpretation of Islam begins hunger strike in jail

Last Modified Friday, 20 September 2019 (15:41 IST)
Saudi dissident has started a hunger strike as the conditions of his imprisonment have reportedly worsened. The blogger had been arrested and lashed for insulting the country's strict interpretation of Islam.
Imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi has launched a hunger strike over mistreatment by the Saudi prison officials, his wife Ensaf Haidar said on Twitter on Friday.
 
She added that officials have so far failed to respond, but "the prison director wants Raif to continue the strike!!!"
 
Former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler reported that the Saudi authorities were "intensifying their ill-treatment" of the 35-year-old Badawi.
 
"As part of their cruel crackdown, they've just confiscated his books & crucial medication," tweeted Cotler, who serves as head of the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights.
 
Saudi authorities arrested Badawi on the charge of "insulting Islam" in 2012. Badawi had criticized the kingdom's theocentric system and urged "freedom and respect" for differing ideas in his blog.
 
Eventually, Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a fine. He received his first set of 50 lashes in a public whipping in 2015. Since the beginning of his imprisonment, he reportedly went on hunger strike on at least two occasions.
In 2015, Badawi received DW Freedom of Speech Award.
 
Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, sought refugee in Canada with their three children. She continues to advocate for her husband's release.
 
In a rare rebuke to Riyadh this week, US Vice President Mike Pence urged Saudi Arabia to free Badawi, whom Pence described as one of the defenders of religious liberty "despite unimaginable pressure."
 
"And the American people stand with them," Pence said.
 
Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) sent a team to Saudi Arabia to lobby for Badawi's release and freeing of 29 other incarcerated journalists.