Mr Badawi will reportedly be flogged weekly until he has received 1,000 lashes. In 2013 he was cleared of apostasy, which could have carried a death sentence – Photo BBC News

Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail, was flogged 50 times. The flogging will be carried out weekly, campaigners say.

Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, the remainder of which will be carried out over 50 weeks

A liberal activist sentenced to prison and flogging in Saudi Arabia has undergone the first round of 50 lashes in public after Friday prayers, Amnesty International said.

Raif Badawi, who set up the Free Saudi Liberals website, was arrested in June 2012 and prosecuted for offences including cybercrime and disobeying his father. The prosecution had demanded he be tried for apostasy, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but a judge dismissed that charge.

Last year he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a fine of 1m Saudi riyals (£175,000) and 1,000 lashes after prosecutors challenged an earlier sentence of seven years and 600 lashes as too lenient. On Thursday the US asked Riyadh to cancel the sentence of 1,000 lashes.

Amnesty quoted a witness as saying the flogging took place after Friday prayers in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah. Badawi was removed from a bus in shackles and brought to the public square in front of the mosque, the rights group said.

“Surrounded by a crowd made up of the public and a number of security officers, he received 50 consecutive lashes on his back. The whole ordeal lasted around 15 minutes. Afterwards he was put back in the bus and taken away.” Amnesty said the rest of the sentence would be carried out over a period of 50 weeks.

Badawi’s website featured articles critical of senior Saudi religious figures and others from Muslim history. Saudi Arabia’s legal code follows sharia Islamic law. Judges are trained as religious scholars and have broad scope to base verdicts and sentences on their own interpretation of religious texts. The Guardian

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