Jailed Saudi Blogger on Hunger Strike

CAIRO (dpa/TNS) -

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, whose imprisonment and public lashing provoked an international outcry, has started a hunger strike, his wife confirmed Friday.

“He started a hunger strike on Tuesday after he had been transferred from a prison to another one outside Jeddah,” his wife, Ensaf Haider, said.

“His transfer to this prison, located around 100 kilometers outside Jeddah, means that his case has been closed,” Haider told dpa by phone from Canada, where she lives with the couple’s three children.

Badawi, 31, was arrested more than three years ago for criticizing the Saudi religious police in an online forum and was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam.

“His lashings could resume at any time. I am very worried about his health, especially as his body is frail and he suffers from health problems.”

There was no official Saudi comment.

He received the first 50 lashes in January. They were then suspended, on health grounds, amid significant global criticisms.

In June, Saudi Arabia’s top court upheld the sentence against Badawi.

In October, he was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.