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Jailed Saudi Blogger Granted Another Reprieve From Flogging; Reason Unclear

Saudi authorities have once again canceled the scheduled flogging of blogger Raif Badawi, who is being punished for insulting Islam, according to Amnesty International, the human rights group that has been closely following the case.

Separately, Ensaf Haidar, Badawi's wife, told Agence France-Presse she was unclear why the 30-year-old blogger was spared today.

Badawi, as we have been reporting, was convicted last year of insulting Islam on Free Saudi Liberals, a now-shuttered website he created. He was sentenced to a decade in prison and 1,000 lashes — 50 lashes a week for 20 weeks — and ordered to pay about $266,000 in fines. A court had originally sentenced him to 600 lashes and seven years in prison, but a judge increased the sentence after an appeal.

He has so far been flogged publicly once, on Jan. 9, in the port city of Jiddah. But two subsequent rounds of flogging, scheduled for Jan. 16 and Jan. 23, were postponed on medical grounds because Badawi hadn't sufficiently recovered from the 50 lashes he had received.

Medical experts quoted by Amnesty International noted that repeated flogging may cause long-term damage.

Badawi's punishment has drawn international attention and criticism.

On Thursday, Haidar, who now lives in Canada, appealed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene with Saudi authorities in her husband's case, saying he can't take another round of flogging.

The late Saudi King Abdullah had referred the case to the Saudi Supreme Court. The BBC reports that a decree by new Saudi King Salman pardoning "public right" prisoners could include Badawi.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.