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Wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi calls on Trump to press for his release

Haidar met with Congressman McGovern who urged Trump to call for Badawi's release [Twitter]

Date of publication: 12 February, 2019

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Esnaf Haidar, wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, is visiting Washington, where she is meeting with lawmakers and activists to discuss her husband's case.

Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, is visiting Washington DC in the hopes of persuading US President Donald Trump to pressure Saudi Arabia to free her husband.

After years of cultivating a popular blog critiquing Saudi state interpretations of Islam and expressing a desire for religious freedom, Badawi was in 2012 sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam and undermining security.

Haidar has lived in Canada with their children since 2013.

Accompanied by Badawi's lawyer and former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, Haidar has so far met with Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern and United States Commission for International Religious Freedom Commissioner Nadine Maenza during her fifth visit to Washington.

"I wish the president would behave like the president of the United States and pick up the phone and ask for Raif Badawi's release", McGovern, who is the co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, told Canada's Global News on Monday.

Cotler also implored Trump to "pick up the phone" and call Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

During Haidar's meeting with McGovern, she received a phone call from Badawi, calling from prison to thank the congressman, who has called the blogger’s imprisonment "unjustifiable", for his dedicated advocacy.

McGovern wants clemency for Badawi, the addition of names to the Magnitsky sanction list, and the drafting of a congressional resolution for his release. A similar resolution has already passed in the Senate.

"I think we may be at a tipping point, where the crown prince will realise, given everything that has happened with… the Khashoggi case," Cotler said, "that it's in his self interest, at this point, to release Badawi".

Haidar and her husband's supporters have asked for a meeting with President Trump in the hopes that she might convince him to ask the crown prince to release Badawi.

She tweeted "guess who I will have dinner with tomorrow!" on Monday night.

An unnamed source told the Washington Examiner multiple senators and Republican congresspeople had urged Trump to meet with Haidar.

"When you say release the journalist, who are you talking about?", the president asked when asked about the Badawi case in 2018. "That I'd have to look into. I'm not familiar with that."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau renewed pressure on Saudi Arabia to release Badawi following a January meeting with Haidar. He also reportedly discussed the case with the crown prince at the G20 summit in December.

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