FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2019
USCIRF Vice Chair Nadine Maenza Calls for Release of Imprisoned Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi
His Continued Imprisonment Belies Saudi Government Claims of Greater Religious Freedom
WASHINGTON, DC – Nadine Maenza, Vice Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), today called on Saudi authorities to drop all charges against and release religious prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi. Mr. Badawi was first arrested in June 2012. Six years ago this week, in July 2013, a Saudi court sentenced Mr. Badawi to 600 lashes and seven years in prison for insulting Islam and breaking the anti-cybercrime law through his website Free Saudi Liberals. In May 2014, the sentenced was increased to 1,000 lashes, ten years in prison, and a fine of one million riyal.
“Saudi Arabia’s persecution of Raif Badawi for peacefully expressing his beliefs is an egregious violation of his religious freedom,” said Vice Chair Maenza, who adopted Raif Badawi in 2018 as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. “For seven years, the Saudi government has kept Raif away from his spouse and children. His public lashing and prolonged detention for peaceful speech directly contradict the Saudi government’s official narrative of working toward greater modernization and improving religious freedom conditions.”
Raif Badawi is a blogger and human rights activist for whom USCIRF has advocated for years, including in its 2019 Saudi Annual Report chapter. During the 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, Vice President Michael R. Pence called for Raif Badawi’s release. However, the State Department maintains a waiver for Saudi Arabia, rather than imposing the sanctions to which it would otherwise be subject as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Kellie Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-703-898-6554.