Saudi Arabia tells Quebec to butt out of Raif Badawi case
QUEBEC — Saudi Arabia is telling Quebec not to meddle in the case of jailed and tortured blogger Raif Badawi whose family has sought refuge in Sherbrooke. But the Quebec government says it is sticking to its position and joining with other politicians in keeping up the pressure.
“No backing down,” Quebec Immigration and Diversity Minister Kathleen Weil told reporters after news of the blast from Saudi Arabia landed at the National Assembly Wednesday.
“We’re going to pursue the mobilization that we began. It’s important for Quebecers to express themselves,” Weil said.
“As you know we adopted a unanimous motion in the National Assembly saying we are going to continue to support Raif Badawi and his family. We want Raif Badawi to be released from prison and to be able to come here and live with his wife and his children.”
In a letter obtained by the CBC dated March 10 from the Saudi ambassador to Canada to politicians at the National Assembly, the ambassador says Saudi Arabia “does not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs.”
“The Kingdom does not accept at all any attack on it in the name of human rights especially when its constitution is based on Islamic law, which guarantees the rights of humans and preserves his blood, money, honour and dignity,” writes Naif Bin Al-Sudairy.
The letter goes further, blaming international agencies and the media with tarnishing Saudi Arabia’s reputation.
The letter was also sent to the federal government.
Weil, who was speaking on behalf of international affairs minister Christine St-Pierre, said St-Pierre will be again pressing the new foreign affairs minister Rob Nicholson to keep up pressure on the Saudis.
Quebec has been a strong supporter of Badawi. In February, the National Assembly passed a unanimous motion condemning the whipping of Badawi and supporting his wife and three children who are refugees living in Sherbrooke.
Couillard later appeared with Badawi’s wife.
“We will not put our arms down,” Couillard said in February. “The democratic world has to say loud and clear that we don’t want those practices to go again without notice from the rest of the world.”
Weil’s comments were echoed by other politicians.
“Regimes which have an unacceptable attitude on freedom of expression have to expect that we are going to get involved in their affairs,” said Parti Québécois MNA Jean-François Lisée, a former international affairs minister and former journalist.
“Human rights is everyone’s business,” added Marie-Victorin MNA Bernard Drainville, a candidate for the PQ leadership. “Mr. Badawi’s wife is now living in Quebec, she’s a Quebecer and she’s living in Sherbrooke with her children. It is our responsibility and our moral duty to fight on her behalf.”
And Québec solidaire MNA Amir Khadir congratulated politicians for keeping up the pressure on the regime noting the letter to the legislature is proof Quebec has got its attention.
“The barbaric situation Badawi finds himself in has sparked solidarity movements all over the world which are being transformed into political pressures,” Khadir said.