Raif Badawi
Online activist Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for promoting public debate on his website Twitter

The Canada-based family of a Saudi Arabian activist blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison has urged Canada to intervene to stop the sentence.

The appeal was made as Raif Badawi was publicly flogged 50 times after prayers on Friday (9 January) and will be lashed for the next 19 weeks until the punishment is completed.

The activist, who co-founded the Saudi Arabian Liberals website, was arrested in 2012 for promoting public debate on his site, which has since been closed.

Badawi was charged with cyber-crime and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison.

He was also charged with apostasy, which carries the death penalty in the Saudi Kingdom, but was cleared of this crime in 2013.

The Jeddah Criminal Court also ordered him to pay one million Saudi riyals (£157,220).

Badawi's wife, who now lives in Quebec, appealed to the Canadian government to apply diplomatic pressure against Saudi Arabia to stop the floggings.

They can do whatever they want to Raif, they will never break him.
Ensaf Haider, Raif Badawi's wife

"I'm appalled that Saudi Arabia could condemn the actions of the Islamic State [Isis], and then torture and execute its own citizens," Ensaf Haider told CTV Montreal. "But they can do whatever they want to Raif, they will never break him."

Amnesty International, who is campaigning to free Badawi, told IBTimes UK: "A witness told us that after the prayers ended [On Friday 9 January] Badawi was removed from a bus in shackles and brought to the public square in front of the mosque.

"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."

Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: "The flogging of Raif Badawi is a vicious act of cruelty which is prohibited under international law.

"By ignoring international calls to cancel the flogging Saudi Arabia's authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles. Raif Badawi is a prisoner of conscience; his only 'crime' was to exercise his right to freedom of expression by setting up a website for public discussion. He must be immediately and unconditionally released."