Nobel Laureates Urge Saudis to Condemn Badawi Flogging

Nobel Laureates Urge Saudis to Condemn Badawi FloggingNobel Laureates Urge Saudis to Condemn Badawi Flogging

Eighteen Nobel Prize winners called on Saudi academics to condemn the flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi in an open letter published by British newspaper the Independent on Tuesday.

Badawi received 50 lashes earlier this month, the first of 20 weekly floggings he was sentenced to along with 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam.” The second round of his weekly floggings was postponed on medical grounds, according to the Amnesty International.

The letter urging Saudi academics “to be heard arguing for the freedom to dissent” is signed by laureates of Nobel prizes in chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, and by literature prize winner John Coetzee, AFP reported.

Addressed to the president of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) -- set up to increase the country’s international profile in science and technology -- the letter indicates the university risks being isolated by international academia. “We write out of concern that the fabric of international cooperation may be torn apart by dismay at the severe restrictions on freedom of thought and expression still being applied to Saudi Arabian society,” the letter read.

“We have no doubt that members of KAUST share that concern, aware that the cruel sentence passed, for example, on Raif Badawi who established a forum for open discussion, sent a shock around the world,” it said. Jailed since 2012, Badawi is co-founder of the Saudi Liberal Network and is described by the Amnesty International as a “prisoner of conscience.”