Last updated: 9 June, 2015

Saudi lashing sentence for blogger ‘medieval’: Swedish FM

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom on Tuesday accused Saudi Arabia of handing a “medieval” punishment to a blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam.

“My opinion is that it’s a medieval sentence. It’s a medieval method that does not have its place in a society that allows a free media and allows people to express their point of view,” Wallstrom told Swedish Radio in Brussels.

The minister was reiterating comments that led to a diplomatic row between Stockholm and Riyadh in March.

In January, Wallstrom also accused Riyadh of using “medieval methods” after it sentenced blogger Raif Badawi to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes. Saudi Arabia’s supreme court on Sunday upheld the sentence.

In March, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Stockholm, accusing Sweden of “flagrant interference” in its affairs after Wallstrom told parliament the oil-rich state was a “dictatorship” that violated women’s rights and whipped bloggers.

Saudi laws are based on Islamic Sharia law, a moral and religious code.

Around the same time, Sweden unilaterally cancelled a longstanding military cooperation deal between the two countries, prompting Saudi Arabia to prevent Wallstrom from making a speech on human rights to the Arab League.

Saudi Arabia proceeded to freeze Swedish business visas to the Gulf kingdom, while its neighbour the United Arab Emirates also recalled its ambassador to Stockholm.

The matter was resolved several weeks later via diplomatic channels. Wallstrom maintained that she had the support of the Swedish people in expressing her position.