USCIRF Letter to Saudi King Salman Requesting the Pardon of Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair

USCIRF Letter to Saudi King Salman Requesting the Pardon of Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) wrote to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia to urge him to pardon Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - June 11, 2015

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“Mr. Badawi is being unjustly held in a Saudi prison for nothing more than peacefully expressing on-line his internationally guaranteed rights to the freedoms of conscience and expression. Also imprisoned is his lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who is serving a 15-year sentence on trumped-up charges related to his work as a human rights defender. Their imprisonment and the fifty lashes Mr. Badawi already has received from his sentence of 1,000 lashes constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and are contrary to international human rights standards,” said USCIRF Chair Katrina Lantos Swett.

June 11, 2015

His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Your Majesty: We write to you on behalf of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent U.S. government advisory body.

We note that Jeddah was the venue last week for the fifth session of the “Istanbul Process” to implement resolution 16/18 of the UN Human Rights Council. This resolution aims to promote a culture of tolerance while protecting fundamental human rights, including the freedoms of religion and expression. A USCIRF representative attended the session.

Unfortunately, nearby, Saudi citizen Raif Badawi continues to languish in Jeddah’s Briman prison for peacefully expressing his views on the Internet. On Sunday, the Saudi Supreme Court upheld Mr. Badawi’s sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison. We are very concerned that the lashes could resume imminently.

Your Majesty, it has been less than six months since you ascended to the throne. We acknowledge that you face many challenges ahead. Mr. Badawi’s situation provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate your leadership by showing the utmost benevolence to a citizen of your country.

Therefore, we respectfully appeal to Your Majesty to show compassion for Raif Badawi, and his lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, by granting them official royal pardons.

It is our strong hope and desire that Mr. Badawi soon will be able to join his wife and children in Canada. We thank you in advance for consideration of our request.

Yours sincerely,

Katrina Lantos Swett, Chair
Robert P. George, Vice Chair
James J. Zogby, Vice Chair
Mary Ann Glendon, Commissioner
M. Zuhdi Jasser, Commissioner
Daniel I. Mark, Commissioner
Thomas J. Reese, Commissioner
Hannah Rosenthal, Commissioner
Eric P. Schwartz, Commissioner

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