28 Jan 2021, 09:35 IST
OTTAWA: Members of Canada’s House of Commons on Wednesday unanimously voted to grant citizenship to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who has been imprisoned in his home country since 2012 and whose wife and three children live in Canada.
The motion asks Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino to use his “discretionary power” to grant Canadian citizenship to Badawi, “in order to remedy a particular situation and unusual distress.”
He was convicted in 2014 to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam.” He received 50 of those beatings in January 2015, but the rest of the sessions — which were to be carried out weekly — were suspended after a global outcry.
Badawi, an outspoken defender of freedom of expression, had called for the end of religious rule under Wahhabism — a rigid interpretation of Islam — in Saudi Arabia.
“Now that this is a formal request from the House, (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau and Minister Marco Mendicino must act,” Yves-Francois Blanchet, head of the separatist Bloc Quebecois party and sponsor of the bill, said after the vote.
“Every day counts” for Badawi, “as his health is constantly in danger in prison,” Blanchet said in a statement.
Relations between Ottawa and Riyadh deteriorated in the summer of 2018 when the Canadian government called for the release of Saudi human rights activists, including Badawi’s sister Samar Badawi.
Badawi’s wife and three children, who live in Quebec, have already received Canadian citizenship.