Hanni Mohammed / AP

Saudi Arabia upholds sentence against liberal blogger Raif Badawi

The country's highest court confirms 10-year prison sentence, 1,000 lashes for setting up website Free Saudi Liberals

Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence and 1,000 lashes for blogger Raif Badawi, human rights group Amnesty International said Saturday.

He was arrested in 2012 in Jiddah for offenses such as setting up the website Free Saudi Liberals, meant to spark debate and discussion about topics in Saudi society.

In January, Badawi was publicly lashed 50 times, despite widespread international condemnation.

In his first public remarks from prison, he described how he "miraculously survived 50 lashes," the German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

In his remarks, Badawi, 31, recalled how he received the first round of lashes in January while surrounded by a cheering crowd that chanted "Allahu akbar" (God is great), Der Spiegel said.

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

His remarks are the preface of a book, "1,000 Lashes: Why I Say What I Think," which was published in Germany on April 1.

Ensaf Haidar, Badawi's wife, told Al Jazeera by email she was surprised by the ruling. "The case has been under review for several months, and my family and I were shocked by the decision," she said. "We had had some hope that maybe he would get his sentence reduced, but that didn't happen."

Human rights groups and several Western governments have called on Riyadh to cancel the sentence of 1,000 lashes. Saudi Arabia postponed his public lashings, supposed to be conducted weekly after Friday prayers, on medical grounds, according to Amnesty.

A group of high-ranking U.S. lawmakers slammed Saudi Arabia after it carried out the first round of 50 lashes on Badawi, saying further repression of peaceful political dissidents could jeopardize the nations' close partnership.

Haidar said she feared the court decision meant that Saudi Arabia would not wait long before punishing him in public.

"I'm very sad about this and very worried for Raif," she said. "I believe they will start lashing him again soon. I'm almost certain of that fact."

Al Jazeera and wire services. With additional reporting by Mohammed Jamjoom.

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter