Supporters of jailed Saudi blogger start foundation to promote free speech

Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, stands next to a poster of a book of articles written by the imprisoned Saudi blogger, Tuesday, June 16, 2015 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL – Supporters of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi are starting a foundation in his name to promote freedom of expression worldwide and to support writers and journalists in the Arab world.

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Co-founder Evelyne Abitbol announced the foundation Friday in Montreal and said Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and dissident writer Salman Rushdie have been named honorary members.

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Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, is the other co-founder and addressed reporters from Germany by video conference.

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Abitbol is calling on the heads of Canada’s main political parties to propose measures to help accelerate Badawi’s release from a Saudi jail.

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Badawi, 31, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since 2012 for publishing blog posts advocating human rights and democracy in his country.

His wife and children fled Saudi Arabia in 2012 and settled in Quebec in 2013.