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People's Alliance for Democracy and Secularism to Saudis: Release Rafi Badawi, respect UN conventions

The People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) has written an urgent letter, signed* by activists, academics and other concerned citizens, to the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Saudi Arabia for early release of Rafi Badawi, well-known Saudi blogger. Text of the letter:
This is an appeal regarding Raif Badawi, a blogger and Saudi citizen, founder of the website ‘Free Saudi Liberals’.
Mr Badawi has been under arrest since 2012 for insulting Islam and apostasy. He was sentenced to be punished with 10 years in prison along with 1000 lashes (50 lashes to be received on every Friday) and a fine of one million riyals. Though he was cleared of charges of apostasy in 2013, there are new reports that indicate he may be tried again under the same charge.
We are mindful that India and Saudi Arabia have long-standing friendly political and commercial relations and that large numbers of Indians live and work in your country. It is because of this that we feel constrained to convey to you our concerns. Raif Badawi is a public intellectual who communicated his thoughts to the public through a blog. We do not believe that any of its contents constituted a threat to the state. To the contrary, his advocacy for secularism and the separation of religion and state is a suggestion that would strengthen it.
Whether or not his ideas are pleasing to your government, the fact remains that as a member state of the United Nations, Saudi Arabia is presumed to be respectful of the freedom of speech that is provided for under Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. This article states: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’.
The sharing of information and ideas is a basic human practice and natural right that should be available to everyone regardless of their nationality or identity and (barring extremist incitement) should not be restricted by law. The state should protect and promote our rights instead of restricting them.
It has been reported that Raif Badawi received the first set of lashes on 9 January, after Friday prayers outside the Al-Juffali Mosque in Jeddah. The next round of punishment has been suspended on medical grounds to give his wounds time to heal prior to wounding him again. We consider this an example of barbaric cruelty, not befitting any member state of the UNO. Such practices are a travesty of justice and will bring you only disrepute.
We are Indian citizens who speak for human rights both within our own country and beyond. We are in solidarity with Raif Badawi and all those demanding freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia. We condemn the inhuman punishment being meted out to him.
We ask that Saudi Arabia to:
• Immediately suspend the punishment of Raif Badawi,
• Release Raif Badawi and provide him security,
• Take measures towards the provision of full freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia.
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Ravi Nitesh, Dipak Dholakia, Rajashri Dasgupta, Prithvi R Sharma, Rana P Behal, Shamsul Islam, Suman Keshari, Aseem Shrivastava, Viren Lobo, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Kashif Ahmed Faraz, R.Sasankan, Rohit Sharma, Mandeep Singh, Firoz Ahmad, Chaman Lal, JS Bandukwala Devika Mittal, Apoorvan and Sudha Vasan, Dheeraj Gaba, Nawed Akhter, Dilip Simeon, Shabnam Hashmi, Rohini Hensman, Ovais Sultan Khan, Ram Puniyani, Vinerjeet Kaur, Kiran Shaheen, Battini Rao, Javed Anand, Harsh Kapoor, Subash Mohapatra, Sagar Rabari, others

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