UK
01/03/2015 08:40 GMT | Updated 01/03/2015 10:59 GMT

Raif Badawi, Blogger Imprisoned In Saudi Arabia, Could Now Face Death Penalty

The Saudi man who was imprisoned and publicly lashed for a blog could be retried for apostasy - which carries the death penalty.

Raif Badawi, 31, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, to be administered publicly each Friday over 20 weeks, for content on his blog that was deemed "insulting" to the country's authorities.

Only one round of the gruesome punishment has been inflicted so far, as subsequent lashings were postponed because the ferocity of the first round left him badly injured to the point he may not have survived another.

Now, his wife Ensaf Haidar has told The Independent she had received "dangerous information" from "official sources" that the Saudi courts want to retry him for apostasy.

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Raif Badawi could be retried for apostasy, a capital offence in Saudi Arabia

The offending blog, published on Valentine's Day 2012, was deemed to have insulted the country's religious police, ominously named "the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice". He was arrested in June 2012 and convicted in May 2014.

Mr Badawi originally faced an apostasy charge as well but it was thrown out when he convinced the court that he was a Muslim.

The evidence for this charge included claims he had liked Facebook pages for Arab Christians.

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According to Amnesty International, it took around five minutes to administer the first round of 50 lashes in January. A witness said: "Raif raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arching his back. He was silent, but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain."

After the lashing, his wife said: "Raif told me he is in a lot of pain. He said that when he was being flogged he took the pain silently and rose above it, so that history will know that he did not react to their punishment. His health is poor and he cannot take another round of lashes."

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Ensaf Haidar at a rally in Montreal in January calling for her husband's release

Western governments have been reluctant to confront Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses and archaic judicial practices.

In January, the death of Kind Abdullah prompted the British government to lower flags to half-mast, prompting anger from those appalled that the UK would publicly mourn a man who ruled over a state that endorses public beheadings, floggings for apostasy and forbids women from driving.