Saudi blogger Badawi views survival of 50 lashes as miracle

Activist and writer Raif Badawi.

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi described in his first letter from prison how he "miraculously survived 50 lashes" as part of a conviction that sparked an international outcry, according to German weekly Der Spiegel in a report to be published on Saturday.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 for offences including insulting Islam, cyber crime and disobeying his father, which is a crime in Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced last year to 10 years in jail, a fine of 1 million riyals ($266,000) and 1,000 lashes.

In his letter, Badawi recalled how he received the first round of lashes in January when he was surrounded by a cheering crowd that yelled "Allahu akbar", according to Der Spiegel.

"All this cruel suffering happened to me only because I expressed my opinion," Badawi was quoted as writing in what the magazine said was his first letter since being jailed.

"He's in a poor condition," the magazine quoted his wife Ensaf Haidar as saying, adding that her husband suffered from high blood pressure and that he was mentally very stressed.

Badawi's letter is part of a book titled "1,000 Lashes: Why I Say What I Think" due to be published in Germany on April 1. Der Spiegel reported that the German government has warned against publication of the book because it could put the blogger's life at risk.

A German diplomat told Reuters when asked about the report that Badawi was free to publish in Germany whatever he liked. But, she added, "The ministry cannot predict the consequences of such a publication for him."

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Publisher Siv Bublitz from Ullstein Buchverlage said in a statement on Friday that the company had "confidential contacts" with the German government regarding the Badawi book project.

"At no time we have felt that the exchange was an attempt by the foreign ministry to prevent our publication or to complicate it," Bublitz said.

Human rights groups and several western governments have called on Riyadh to cancel the sentence of 1,000 lashes.

Earlier this month, Germany's economy minister and vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said during a visit in Riyadh that he had discussed human rights issues in Saudi Arabia and suggested a pardon for Badawi.

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