Free Raif poster

Around 30-40 people attended this evening’s silent vigil outside Belfast City Hall organised by Amnesty to mark the treatment of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who was recently “sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes [50 a week], a fine of 1 million Saudi Riyal (over a quarter of a million US dollars), and prevented from using any kind of media or travelling until 2034”. Amnesty explain:

Raif’s sentence stems from his creation of the website ‘Saudi Arabian Liberials’, which he envisaged as a forum for political and social debate. He was subsequently charged for content he had posted to the site, including an article published on Valentine’s Day 2012 in which he was accused of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s religious police, the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice – as well as failing to remove ‘offensive’ posts by other contributors.

Raif was arrested in June 2012. In May 2014 he was found guilty of breaking Saudi Arabia’s strict technology laws and insulting Islamic religious figures by creating and managing an online forum.

For many of us, blogging is a pretty safe hobby. There is considerable freedom of speech. While some journalists were targeted and even killed during the Troubles, most bloggers write and report relatively unimpeded. For Raif, the consequences have been barbaric.

Photo credit: Kevin Cooper

Free Raif