Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badaw
Leaflets promoting the release of Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison for setting up the Saudi Arabian Liberals website Twitter

Saudi Arabian online activist Raif Badawi has had his sentence of 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison, for creating an online forum to promote public debate, upheld by a Saudi court.

Badawi co-founded the Saudi Arabian Liberals website and, in May, was ordered to pay one million Saudi riyals (£157,220) and was given a ten-year travel ban by Jeddah's Criminal Court. His appeal was upheld by the Court of Appeal in Jeddah.

The court ordered Badawi must receive the lashes in public outside al-Jafali mosque. It said there would be 50 lashes per session, with no less than a week between each session.

The 'Liberals' website was created in 2006 and was a platform for Saudi Arabians to discuss liberal ideas and different interpretations of Islam.

The court accused Badawi of "setting up a website that undermines general security" and "ridiculing Islamic religious figures".

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) said it "expresses serious concern at the upholding of the sentence against Raif Badawi, as it is solely related to his legitimate human rights activities".

"This action by the Court of Appeal is particularly concerning in light of the fact that Saudi Arabia is a member of the UN Human Rights Council, as it is a clear attempt to punish and hinder the peaceful work of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia."

The centre called on Saudi authorities to "immediately release" Badawi, guarantee his "physical and psychological security" and guarantee all "human rights defenders" in Saudi Arabia can conduct their legitimate activities "without fear of reprisals".

Badawi was arrested in 2012 on charges of cyber-crime and apostasy, the latter carrying the death penalty in the Saudi Kingdom. His website has been closed since.

Article 32 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, to which Saudi Arabia is party, guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to impart news to others by any means, Human Rights Watch said.

Saudi Arabia, however, is fighting to silence independent activists and peaceful dissidents through intimidation, investigations, arrests, prosecutions and imprisonment.