US urges Saudi to halt whipping of citizen journalist

US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki at the State Department in Washington, DC, on June 16, 2014The United States Thursday appealed to Saudi Arabia to annul a sentence of 1,000 lashes imposed on a Saudi rights activist and citizen journalist on top of a 10-year jail term. Raef Badawi, 30, was sentenced on November 5 after questioning the Gulf kingdom’s direction on the now-banned Liberal Saudi Network, which he set up. Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders said Badawi was Friday due to start 20 weekly whipping sessions of 50 lashes each. “We are greatly concerned about reports that human rights activist Raif Badawi will start facing the inhumane punishment of 1,000 lashes in addition to serving a 10-year sentence in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

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