Saudi blogger Raif Badawi released after 10 years in prison

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been released after 10 years in prison. He himself announced this by telephone on Friday morning to his wife, Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Quebec with their three children.

“He said to me, ‘I’m free, I’m going out soon,’ ‘M recountsme Haidar in interview with The duty. She says she received the good news during a very short call from Raïf Badawi around 8 a.m. Friday morning, Montreal time. “My children were next to me. They said, ‘Mom, that’s true! Finally! “”, She says.

Raif Badawi is still in Saudi Arabia, where he was jailed in 2012 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Although his release does not mean he will soon be allowed to fly to Canada to find his family, his relatives are happy to know he is out of the Saudi prison system.

Every Friday dinner for seven years, a watch to the sound of drums was arranged in front of Sherbrooke City Hall in support of the Saudi blogger. Ensaf Haidar did not miss a beat. “Today was the 376and ! she explains.

Met during another party the same place in the evening, Mme Haidar, who was all smiling, received hugs from his friends and Sherbrooke residents, who were shouting for joy. “You are my family,” she said to them in an impromptu little speech. Behind, on the walls of City Hall, her husband’s face appeared reproduced on two large posters facing her.

For Sherbrooke residents, this liberation has a special resonance. “It gives hope in this time of life when we need it,” said Mayor Évelyne Beaudin. “Ensaf is a resident of Sherbrooke, her children too, and Raïf is a resident of Sherbrooke for us. He is one of ours that we fought for. »

Federal Liberal MP Élisabeth Brière said she was “relieved” by this “so-called” result. “As a government, we have always done everything we could to achieve the result we have today. »

Still far from Canada

Even released from prison, the blogger has not yet finished Saudi justice. Mr. Badawi is still subject to a 10-year travel ban, a ban on working in the media and a $ 335,000 fine.

In addition to his prison sentence, Raïf Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for criticizing the country’s religious authorities. The blogger received 50 in a public whip in January 2015, but has reportedly not been whipped since. “The Saudis would have to agree to let him go,” confirms Évelyne Abitbol, ​​co-founder of the Raïf Badawi Foundation for Freedom. “Now we still have to work hard for a full release. »

He, who is also responsible for the coordination between the lawyers defending Mr Badawi and the members of his family, continues to hope that his conditions of release can be relaxed. This would be in line with the reforms implemented by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, analyzes M.me Abitbol. “The Canadian government can negotiate a safe behavior for him,” she said. The Saudi government is already under international pressure on this issue, from Canada and other countries.

Meanwhile, Raïf Badawi regains some freedom of movement in Saudi Arabia. However, his residence is kept secret for security reasons.

“I know he has not come here yet,” his wife sighs. But today I want to enjoy the joy. »

The release of Raïf Badawi was also highlighted by politicians of various stripes, both in Quebec and in Ottawa. “Finally! I keep thinking about the children who will finally find their father,” wrote the Prime Minister of Quebec, François Legault, on Twitter. Opposition party leaders did the same on social media on Friday.

‘Canada is relieved to learn that Raif Badawi has been released after almost 10 years in prison. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones, ” also stressed the Federal Foreign MinisterMelanie Joly.

We are pleased with this extraordinary development and offer our full cooperation to Raïf Badawi and Ensaf Haidar for the future. ” in turn, wrote the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-Francois Blanchet. Mme Haidar had run in politics with her at the 2021 federal election, especially because Bloc MPs had taken her husband’s case to the federal parliament.

In late February, the Bloc Québécois made a proposal to reiterate the request to the immigration minister to grant Canadian citizenship to Raïf Badawi, who is within his power, in order to “mitigate cases of special and unusual difficulties”. The proposal was unanimously adopted in the Folketing.

With Lisa-Marie Gervais

To watch in video

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