Responding to a call to action by Amnesty International, over 70 people met in front of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia at 5:00pm on Thursday to campaign for the release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his lawyer, Waleed Abu al Khair. The campaigners came complete with drums to plug their message. There are around a hundred padlocks currently locked onto a chain that was set up in front of the embassy 2 months ago, alongside trees adorned with knitting graffiti artwork sporting Raif Badawi’s name.
Demonstrations of this type have been taking place in Brussels since January. Over a million people have signed the petition for his release, 35,000 of them Belgian. On June 16th after Raif Badawi’s wife was questioned by federal MP Georges Dallemagne, the External Relations Committee of the Belgian Chamber unanimously voted in favour of a proposal in support of the blogger, which would call on the gorernment to appeal to Saudi authorities in his favour.
On May 7th, 2014, Jeddah criminal court sentenced Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He was also given a 10-year travel ban at the end of his sentence, a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (about 226,000 euros) and was banned from using the media. He was sentenced for setting up a website called “Free the Saudi liberals” and in response to accusations he insulted Islam. He was originally found guilty of apostasy, punishable by the death penalty. Jeddah appeal court upheld the conviction on September 1st, 2014. The 50 lashes he was to have each week were suspended following his first public flogging on January 9th, 2015.