August 18, 2019
More than seven years after Raif Badawi was thrown in prison, lawyers and allies of the Saudi blogger are increasingly lobbying foreign governments in an effort to secure his release as Saudi Arabia prepares to host next year’s G-20 meeting.
Irwin Cotler, a human rights lawyer and former federal justice minister who represents the family internationally, says advocates for Badawi have recently been meeting with foreign governments, UN representatives and others to encourage them to call for the release of Badawi, his sister Samar, their former lawyer Waleed Abulkhair and other imprisoned human rights defenders.
Cotler sat down with The Canadian Press to discuss the intensifying effort to free the 35-year-old Badawi, who was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics.
Cotler said it is urgent “to both internationalize and intensify our advocacy” as Saudi Arabia chairs the G-20 ahead of the meeting in Riyadh in November 2020.
That effort appeared to yield results last month when U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence called on Saudi Arabia to free Badawi as well as three other jailed dissidents.
The four dissidents, Pence said, “have stood in defence of religious liberty and the exercise of their faith despite unimaginable pressure, and the American people stand with them.”