On Saturday, March 12, the Saudi Arabia court confirmed the 10-year travel ban for the human rights activist and blogger Raif Badawi. The ban will effectively imprison Badawi in the country for another ten years.
Released on Friday, March 11, Badawi was arrested in 2012 and jailed for ten years for charges of "insulting Islam."
His sentence also included 1,000 lashes scheduled 50 per week over five months. After an international outcry on the first round of lashes, and the U.N. calling it "cruel and inhuman," Saudi authorities decided to postpone the remaining lashes indefinitely.
An interior ministry official said the "sentence handed down to Raif was ten years in prison followed by a travel ban for the same length of time." "The court ruling holds up and is final," the minister said.
Speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP) on the condition of anonymity, the ministry official explained that the travel ban is an extension of Badawi's sentence. "Therefore, he cannot leave the kingdom for another ten years unless a (royal) pardon is issued," the official explained.
Ensaf Haidar, Badawi's wife, told AFP last March 11 that she got a call from Badawi, saying he is free. "Raif called me. He is free," Haidar told AFP. Haidar lives in Canada with their three children, following her escape from Saudi Arabia after Badawi's arrest.
Badawi's fight for human rights in the deeply conservative Islamic Kingdom started in 2008 when he established an online blog with a hosted forum called Saudi Free Liberals Forum. He encouraged people online to "debate political and religious affairs in Saudi Arabia."
He was also known for his bravery in openly criticizing religious institutions in Saudi Arabia, accusing them of confining the people in a "circle of faith and fear."
Badawi has won multiple awards and recognition, including the 2014 Reporters Without Borders prize and the 2015 Sakharov Prize for Freedom by the European Parliament. He was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.
Amnesty International said on Friday that they will "actively work to have any conditions lifted." While the province of Quebec has put Badawi on a "priority list of potential immigrants for humanitarian reasons."
On top of a ten-year travel ban, Badawi was also slapped with a huge fine by the Saudi court. To cover the more than a quarter of a million USD fine (one million Saudi Riyals), a GoFundMe campaign has been set up. Supporting the campaign will bring Badawi and his family closer to “live together again, in freedom and safety.”