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Saudi Arabia frees blogger after 10 years in prison

Updated 12 Mar, 2022
The winner of the Reporters Without Borders prize for press freedom was arrested and detained in Saudi Arabia in 2012 on charges of "insulting Islam," and at the end of 2014 was sentenced to 10 years in prison. AFP/ File
The winner of the Reporters Without Borders prize for press freedom was arrested and detained in Saudi Arabia in 2012 on charges of "insulting Islam," and at the end of 2014 was sentenced to 10 years in prison. AFP/ File

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been released from prison in Saudi Arabia after serving a 10-year sentence for advocating an end to religious influence on public life, his wife said Friday.

"Raif called me. He is free," his wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with their three children and had been advocating for his release, told AFP.

Badawi's release was also confirmed by a Saudi security official who said on condition of anonymity that Badawi "was released today."

The winner of the Reporters Without Borders prize for press freedom was arrested and detained in Saudi Arabia in 2012 on charges of "insulting Islam," and at the end of 2014 was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

As a result, the 38-year-old became a symbol of freedom of expression around the world.

No details of his release conditions -- including a possible 10-year travel ban -- were immediately available.

Amnesty International said in an email to AFP that it would "actively work to have any conditions lifted."

"Raif Badawi, human rights defender in Saudi Arabia, has finally been released!" Amnesty also tweeted.

"Thousands of you have mobilized alongside us in the defense of Raif Badawi for 10 years. A big thank you to all of you for your tireless support."

Every Friday for almost seven years, Haidar had held a public vigil for Badawi in Canada.

Colette Lelievre, a Montreal-based campaign organizer with Amnesty, said his release was "a great relief."

"Ensaf was at a loss for words because it was so sudden. She worked so hard to free her husband that emotions overwhelmed her," Lelievre said Friday after speaking with Badawi's wife.

"This is a big step forward for her," she added.

Canada's Quebec province has paved the way for Raif Badawi to come to the country if he chooses by placing him on a priority list of potential immigrants for humanitarian reasons.