Raif Badawi

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 14 July 2015.

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Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Scottish National Party, Glasgow South 11:30, 14 July 2015

What progress is being made on diplomatic efforts to free the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

As the House is aware, Raif Badawi is a Saudi human rights activist and blogger who, in May 2014, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. The British Government have raised the case a number of times at senior levels. I now understand that the case is under consideration in the Saudi supreme court.

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Scottish National Party, Glasgow South

We often hear that answer from the Government. One of two things is happening. Either the Government are trying and failing, or they are not really bothering at all. May I ask the Minister two questions? First, will he instruct the United Kingdom ambassador in Saudi Arabia to request a prison visit to check on Raif Badawi’s health? Secondly, will he say without equivocation that Mr Badawi should be set free?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman heard my first response, so let me repeat it. I understand that the case is under consideration in the Saudi supreme court. This country, along with many others across the world, made representations at senior levels to ensure that it was understood where we stand as a supporter of freedom of expression around the world. It is now for the supreme court of make a judgment, and we should not pre-empt what the court will say.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

Lashing, like stoning and crucifixion, belongs to the Old Testament, not to the 21st century. Please will the Minister keep up his pressure on our friends in Saudi Arabia to make them see sense?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. It is very important that Britain stands by other countries in pushing for not only the right of freedom of expression, but the right of justice for those in prison, and we will continue to do so. The lashings have now stopped and this case is currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court[Interruption.]—something I think Stewart McDonald still does not understand.