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Saudi Arabia Could Resume Flogging Raif Badawi: Human Rights Watch

by Alexander Smith /  / Updated 
Image: Paris rally for Raif Badawi
A rally supporting Raif Badawi was held in Paris, France, on May 7.STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP via Getty Images

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Saudi Arabia could resume flogging an activist as early as Friday after the country's Supreme Court upheld its sentence of 1,000 lashings and 10 years in prison, according to a human-rights group.

Raif Badawi, 31, was convicted in 2013 of setting up a liberal website that Saudi officials said insulted religious authorities in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

The blogger's sentence was condemned by the United States, the United Nations and others. The State Department called it a "brutal punishment" and said Badawi had merely been "exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion."

Image: Paris rally for Raif Badawi
A rally supporting Raif Badawi was held in Paris, France, on May 7.STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP via Getty Images

The 1,000 lashes were to be administered in front of a mosque in the Saudi city of Jeddah, and administered in groups of 50 for 20 weeks every Friday.

But after Badawi received the first 50 of these in January his punishment was postponed due to "medical reasons," according to Amnesty International.

Human Rights Watch warned on Thursday that the lashings could resume following the Supreme Court upholding the sentence Sunday after it was sent to appeal.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said Badawi was being punished "merely for expressing his peaceful opinions."

He added: "All Saudi efforts to improve the country's image internationally cannot overcome this ugly message of intolerance."

Saudi Arabia expressed its "surprise and dismay" in March at the international outrage following Badawi's sentencing and defended its human-rights record.

The Saudi Embassy in London did not immediately respond when contacted by NBC News for comment on Thursday's Human Rights Watch report.

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