Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has reportedly received the first 50 lashes out of 1,000 public flogging after he was convicted of what was called cybe crime and insulting Wahhabism on his website.
According to witnesses, Badawi was transported to a square across from Jeddah’s al-Jafali Mosque in shackles on Friday and whipped for 15 minutes before being driven away.
The witnesses further stated that Badawi was kept with his back to onlookers while being flogged, but he kept silent.
The blogger is due to undergo 50 lashes outside the mosque every week after Friday prayers, which will continue for 20 weeks until his punishment is complete, according to Amnesty International.
The move comes despite widespread global outrage and calls for clemency from prominent human right groups.
His persecution began in 2008 after he co-founded the “Free Saudi Liberals” website, where he criticized influential Saudi clerics who follow Wahhabism, a sect which originated in Saudi Arabia.
Although his lawyers appealed for a retrial, the sentence was upheld last May to 1,000 lashes, completed in 20 sessions in front of a mosque, ten years of imprisonment, one million riyal fine ($266,000), 10-year ban on overseas travel abroad after his release and a 10-year ban from participating in visual, electronic and written media after his release.
Criticism of Wahhabi clerics is viewed as a red line as they play a vital role in supporting the Al Saud regime’s policies.