Canada’s House of Commons have unanimously voted in favour of granting citizenship to the dissident Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who has been imprisoned in the kingdom for nine years.
The motion adopted yesterday calls for Immigration Minister Marco Medicino to use his “discretionary power” to grant Canadian citizenship to Badawi, whose wife and three children already reside in Canada.
“All parties have finally recognized that the Canadian government must offer citizenship to Raif Badawi to facilitate his release after nearly nine years of imprisonment without cause in Saudi Arabia,” said MP Yves-François Blanchet. “Now that this is a formal request from the House, Justin Trudeau and Minister Marco Mendocino must act,” he added.
Reacting on Twitter, Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar welcomed the adoption of the motion, saying: “What extraordinary news! Raif will be so happy! It gives him hope. Now the whole family will have citizenship.”
Badawi, a writer and activist who founded the website Free Saudi Liberals, was arrested in 2012 on the charge of insulting Islam online and the following year was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. He was resentenced in 2014 to ten years in prison with 1,000 lashes plus a fine.
Relations between Ottawa and Riyadh reached a low point in 2018 after Canada’s Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the arrest of Raif’s sister Samar Badawi and called for both to be released. However this resulted in the Saudis expelling the Canadian ambassador and new trade relations being frozen. Despite the diplomatic spat, Saudi oil shipments continued to arrive in Canada.