Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who was sentenced to a decade in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, now faces being beheaded for renouncing the religion, his family have said.
They claimed to have learned of attempts within the Saudi judicial system to have Raif Badawi retried for the crime, which carries a death sentence. Amnesty International said it was looking into the claims, which could not be verified on Sunday evening.
“Raif and his family must be thinking ‘what new hell is this?’,” said an Amnesty spokesman.
“The torment of facing each week the possibility of another brutal public flogging is an unimaginable torture. These latest rumours that the death penalty is a possibility again add to the nightmare.
“Over a million people have called for Raif’s freedom. That should be the only development we’re hearing about.”
In a statement, Badawi’s family said that the Saudi supreme court has referred his case to the same judge who passed the sentence he is currently serving, whom they accused of being biased against him.
He was previously cleared of apostasy – renouncing his religion – in 2013. In January this year, his case was referred to the supreme court by the former king in a move that his supporters hoped would eventually lead to his release.
But his family, who cited “information from reliable sources” they did not name, now believe that the case has been referred on again to the country’s Penal court under regulations introduced last autumn.
“We have reasons to believe without any doubts that the same judge has again asked the head of the court of appeal to charge Raif with apostasy,” they said in a statement.
“It should be mentioned that this judge stated in his written verdict against Raif, that he has proof and is confident that Raif is an apostate.
“We call on the world citizens and governments not to leave Raif dragged by such bigots to death. And we renew our calls to His Majesty King Salman to pardon Raif Badawi and allow him to leave for Canada to be united with his family there.”
Badawi received the first 50 lashes outside al-Jafali mosque in the port city of Jeddah in January. He was due to be subjected to 50 more each week but it was postponed after doctors said that his wounds had not healed and that he was unfit to have the sentence carried out.