Saudi blogger to be flogged for blasphemy

Blogger Raif Badawi, convicted of "offenses to Islamic precepts" in Saudi Arabia, is to receieve 1,000 lashes starting Jan. 9. The lashing order says Badawi should "be lashed very severely." He is to receive 50 lashes once a week for the first 20 weeks of his 15-year prison term. The piunishment was imposed  for having co-founded a website, "Free Saudi Arabian Liberals" (now offline), and for posts to Facebook and Twitter. His posts criticized and poked fun at Saudi institutions such as the Commission for the Promotion of Goodness and the Prohibition of Vice (the "religious police"), the Saudi Grand Mufti, other Saudi ulema, or religious scholars. Among his offending comments: "My commitment is…to reject any repression in the name of religion…a goal that we will reach in a peaceful and law-abiding way." (Gatestone Institute, The Guardian, Jan. 8)