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Badawi's wife appeals to Gabriel

March 1, 2015

Ensaf Haidar, wife of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, has called on Germany's vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, to help her husband during his visit to Saudi Arabia.

Österreich Raif Badawi Protest in Wien
Image: picture alliance/APA/picturedesk.com

Ensaf Haidar appealed for help from the German government on public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday evening, urging top Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel to fight for her husband when he travels to Saudi Arabia next weekend.

Gabriel is both Germany's vice chancellor - as the leader of the junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats - and also the country's economy minister.

Ensaf Haidar Frau Blogger Raif Badawi
Ensaf Haidar is living in Canada, hoping to be reunited with her husbandImage: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Burston

"I would like Vice Chancellor Gabriel to make contact with those responsible in Saudi Arabia and to ask them for Raif's release, and not just for his release, but also for an exit visa allowing him to travel from Saudi Arabia to Canada," Haidar said on the Sunday evening program. She has lived in Canada since her husband's initial arrest in 2012.

Gabriel responded by saying that the German government was working hard to secure the blogger's release. Badawi faces a 10-year jail sentence and 1,000 public lashes for "insulting Islam" with his blog "Free Saudi Liberals."

Gabriel: keep talks quiet

"Practically everyone in the German government who has any chance to do so is working towards his release and for an end to the jail sentence," Gabriel said in response.

"But we should not really talk about who we're working with, or what we're working on, on television. In any case, not if we want to help the man," the Social Democrat added. Gabriel said that, in this sense, not talking about any negotiations was "the most important help that we can provide."

Gabriel visits Saudi Arabia next Saturday and Sunday, accompanied by a large German business delegation. The official reason for the visit is to attend a German-Saudi trade fair.

Gabriel has come under fire in recent weeks, after the German government stood firmly in Badawi's corner, over news of continued military exports to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies.

When in opposition before Germany's last general elections late in 2013, Gabriel had pledged to reduce the number of German weapons exports headed to non-NATO and non-EU member states.

For four consecutive weeks, amid international outrage, Badawi's scheduled public lashing has been postponed on health grounds. On February 25, Deutsche Welle awarded the 31-year-old its inaugural Freedom of Speech award.

msh/bk (AFP, dpa)