Saudi Arabia defended its human rights record on Saturday in its first public reaction to international criticism over last year’s sentencing of liberal Saudi blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for “insulting Islam.”
The first 50 of Badawi’s lashes were carried out in January, prompting strong criticism of the kingdom’s rights record in Western countries, including its laws on political and religious expression and the status of Saudi women.
“Saudi Arabia expresses its intense surprise and dismay at what is being reported by some media about the case of citizen Raif Badawi and his sentence,” said a statement carried on state media and attributed to an unnamed “foreign ministry official.”
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