Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been released from prison after spending 10 years behind bars, his wife said.
- Mr Badawi was jailed in 2012 for setting up a website that criticised Saudi clergy and called for changes in religious practices
- Mr Badawi also received 50 lashes in 2015
- The public flogging led to an international outcry and criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record
But human rights groups say he is still banned from travel for another 10 years.
Mr Badawi, who created and managed an online forum, was arrested in 2012, charged for “insulting Islam” and subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.
He received 50 lashes in 2015.
His public flogging caused an international outcry and prompted strong criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, including its restrictive laws on political and religious expression.
“After 10 years in prison #Raifisfree,” tweeted his wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada, where she and their three children were granted political asylum.
Amnesty International and Saudi Arabian human rights group ALQST said Mr Badawi was still facing 10 years of travel ban.
“Raif Badawi is still blocked in Saudi Arabia, as he is banned from leaving the country for the next 10 years,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
The Saudi government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“After almost a decade in prison, Canada is relieved to hear news that Raif Badawi has been released. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Twitter.
Website called for changes in religious practices
Mr Badawi set up the Free Saudi Liberals website, where he criticised the Saudi clergy and called for changes in the way religion is practised in Saudi Arabia.
He was also fined 1 million riyals ($365,586). Prosecutors challenged an earlier sentence of seven years and 600 lashes as too lenient.
In a rare public criticism of Saudi Arabia, the United States urged the kingdom on Tuesday to review cases of “prisoners of conscience” and lift travel bans and other restrictions imposed on women’s rights activists previously released from jail.
Mr Badawi’s sister, Samar Badawi, was detained in July 2018, along with more than a dozen other activists, on suspicion of harming Saudi interests. She was released last year.