Monday, 15 June 2015

Open Letter to my MEPs re Raif Badawi

Dear Daniel Hannan, Keith Taylor, Catherine Bearder, Richard Ashworth, Anneliese Dodds, Nirj Deva, Nigel Farage and Janice Atkinson,

I'm sure you know about the case of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, and how he has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 1000 lashes (50 on each Friday before prayers). I'm sure you are also aware that last week his case was reassessed and they decided to uphold the sentence. His crime? To write his thoughts to paper. Not thoughts inciting a riot or thoughts that told lies, but thoughts that were, in his view, the truth. And he spoke in peace.

I study British 17th century history as background for my book, The Popish Midwife, who became famous in the time of the Popish Plot.  She was first tried for treason, but managed to escape the gallows by proving her accuser untrustworthy.
More relevant here, she was tried a second time a few months later for writing about her experiences, and about the torture and conditions prevalent in prison, which the government at the time denied. For this, she was sentenced to three seperate hours in the pillory, pelted with stones etc and further, was fined £1000, which, because she was never able to pay, meant she was held in prison for many years.
Like Raif, all she wrote was her view, her truth. A person could be sentenced to death (hung, drawn and quartered) then for even thinking of the king being dead - thoughts then, too, were considered actions. People died for their beliefs. She was condemned for expressing her concerns.

I am appalled to find that such abuse of power is still alive in the world and  that, three centuries later, there are parallels between that awful time in London and  places such as Saudi Arabia today. People are still being condemned for their thoughts.

Have we learned nothing?

Please, I implore you, as Members of the European Parliament that represent me and my family, please talk to the Saudi Arabian government about Raif, and others like him, who have been sentenced for doing what we consider a right - to express ourselves openly. Please encourage everyone around you to make it known, directly to the Saudi Arabian government, that we do not consider it fair or right to condemn a person for their thoughts, or for writing them down. If we followed the same way of thinking, it would return us to three hundred years ago. And that's what we would be doing by ignoring this barbaric and unfair sentence. We have advanced since then, and we hope they can raise themselves above this too.

Please ask them to free Raif and serve him no more punishment for something he should have been in his right to do.

With this in mind, I also ask that you nominate Raif Badawi for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom.

Yours sincerely,

Annelisa Christensen