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Saudi blogger could be pardoned: Swiss official

A procedure for obtaining a pardon from Saudi Arabia’s king is under way for jailed blogger Raif Badawi, whose flogging sentence created worldwide outrage, a senior Swiss official said Saturday.

“A procedure for a pardon is now under way before the head of state, that is King Salman,” Yves Rossier, the secretary of state at the foreign ministry, said in the newspaper La Liberte on Saturday.

Rossier had raised the blogger’s case during an official visit to Riyadh this week.

The European Parliament last month awarded Badawi, 31, its Sakharov human rights prize.

Announcing the award, parliament chief Martin Schulz called on King Salman to immediately release Badawi, denouncing his 10-year jail term and flogging sentence as “brutal torture”.

Badawi co-founded the Saudi Liberal Network Internet discussion group.

He was detained in 2012 on cyber crime charges and later sentenced for insulting Islam and calling for the end of the influence of religion on public life.

Badawi received the first 50 lashes of his 1,000 lashes sentence in January but there have been no more, following criticism from the European Union, United States, Sweden, Canada, the United Nations and others.

His lawyer Walid Abulkhair, who is also in prison, received Friday in Geneva an international human rights prize from the European bar associations for his work defending rights in the oil-rich kingdom.