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Austrian protesters support flogged blogger

The Local Austria
The Local Austria - [email protected]
Austrian protesters support flogged blogger
Protesters gathered outside the Saudi embassy on Thursday. Photo: APA/Fohringer

Around 80 people gathered outside Vienna's controversial Saudi-financed religious dialogue centre on Friday, to protest against the flogging of blogger Raif Badawi.

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The Greens party has been organising weekly protests outside the centre, which has failed to criticise the punishment. Badawi was sentenced last May to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam" and disobedience.

The Greens human rights spokeswoman Alev Korun said she hoped the Saudi royal family would show sympathy for Badawi, after the death of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, but added that she feared that his death would do nothing to change the kingdom's stance on human rights or freedom of expression. 

On Thursday around 50 people gathered outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Vienna for a similar protest, and the Austrian branch of human rights group Amnesty International handed in 5,400 signatures against the punishment. 

Heinz Patzelt, the Secretary General of Amnesty International Austria, praised Badawi for his liberal views on religion and said protesters must remain active until he is free.

Badawi’s second round of punishment has been postponed for a second week running, after doctors advised against this week’s 50 lashes on health grounds.

Austrian president Heinz Fischer, Chancellor Werner Faymann, and Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz have all called on Saudi leaders to release the blogger.

Many Austrian politicians, including Faymann, have withdrawn their support for the Saudi-financed religious dialogue centre in Vienna as it has failed to condemn Badawi’s flogging.

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