January 30, 2015 3:12 pm

Does release of Souad al-Shammari mean Raif Badawi could be freed?

Amnesty International activists protest with a placard reading 'No flogging for blogging' against the flogging punishment of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi on January 29, 2015.

Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images
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MONTREAL — As a Saudi blogger with Canadian ties was spared a scheduled flogging for a third straight week Friday, a supporter expressed hope the pardon of a fellow activist may spur Raif Badawi’s release.

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READ MORESaudi Arabia postpones flogging of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi again

News of the flogging postponement emerged as word circulated that Souad al-Shammari, who co-founded a liberal blog with Badawi, had been freed.

Elham Manea, a human rights activist and Badawi family spokeswoman, said there’s reason to be optimistic about his case in an interview from Switzerland.

“We are hoping that he will be pardoned just like Souad al-Shammari.”

Badawi is not a Canadian citizen but his wife and three children fled Saudi Arabia in 2012 and settled in Sherbrooke, Que., in 2013.

READ MORE: Politicians call on Ottawa to help secure release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi

Amnesty Canada spokesperson Beth Berton-Hunter confirmed in an email the organization has information that al-Shammari was released. She couldn’t provide more details.

Berton-Hunter said al-Shammari’s daughter, who has been campaigning for her release, also tweeted about her mother’s freedom.

Al-Shammari was detained in October.

Amnesty International said the mother of six was arrested after being questioned about comments she made on Twitter that allegedly mocked religious texts and authorities.

She also reportedly incited Saudi Arabian women to rebel against the male guardianship system that gives men final say over issues like a woman’s ability to travel abroad.

Meanwhile, Badawi’s scheduled flogging in Jiddah was postponed Friday for unknown reasons.

“We only know the previous two weeks, the cancellation took place on grounds of health condition,” Manea said.

“But this week, we really don’t have any information other than the fact the flogging didn’t take place.”

Badawi is serving 10 years in prison and has also been sentenced to 1,000 lashes for the blog criticizing Saudi Arabia’s clerics.

The first 50 lashes were delivered on Jan. 9. He was expected to receive 50 more every week for the following 19 weeks, according to Amnesty International.

Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam, was brought after Friday prayers to a public square in the port city of Jiddah and flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 after writing articles critical of Saudi Arabia’s clerics on his blog.

He was found guilty of breaking the country’s technology laws and insulting Islamic religious figures through the site. The blog since has been shut down.

READ MORESaudi Arabia postpones second flogging of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi

Badawi was originally sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013, but an appeals judge later stiffened the punishment. He was also fined one million Saudi riyals, more than $300,000.

On Thursday, Badawi’s wife joined an all-party coalition of MPs on Parliament Hill urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene personally with the Saudis to push for his release.

Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who has been flogged by Saudi authorities, takes part in a news conference in Ottawa in Ottawa, Thursday, Jan.29, 2015.

Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

Ensaf Haidar said she’s worried about her husband, whose condition is worsening.

“It is impossible for a human being to be able to withstand 50 lashes weekly,” Haidar said through a translator at a news conference, citing the conclusion of several doctors who examined Badawi in the last week.

His detention and sentence have stirred up worldwide condemnation.

In Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Development Minister Christian Paradis and Andrew Bennett, Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom, have all issued statements condemning the sentence.

Baird met with Saudi officials last week in Davos, Switzerland, and specifically mentioned Badawi’s case.

— With files from Associated Press

© 2015 The Canadian Press

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