“I have confidence in the prince”

Photo: Paul Chiasson, The canadian Press
Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Sherbrooke after having been granted asylum in Canada, and regularly speaks to her husband : she called at the prison two or three times per week.

Ensaf Haidar, wife of blogger Raïf Badawi, imprisoned for five years, said “trust” in the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the new strong man from Riyadh, to release soon her husband as a pledge of his willingness to reform


“I have confidence in the prince Mohammed bin Salman because the prince enforces the ideas of Raïf,” says Ms Haidar.


“He wants to modernize saudi Arabia, modernize the shari’a. This means that he also wants to free prisoners of conscience, ” says this native of the region of Jizan, in the south-west of saudi Arabia.


Her husband, arrested in 2012, was sentenced in 2014 to ten years in prison and a thousand lashes for ” insulting islam “. The site of the blogger is 34 years old and promoted the freedom of expression and the rights of women.


But in recent months, a series of reforms in societal and economic have been announced in this country ultraconservateur, under the leadership of Mohammed bin Salman, the permission to drive or attend sporting events for women to the theaters…


In October, the ” MBS “also promised saudi Arabia to be “moderate” and ” tolerant.”


Activists of the rights of the person are more sceptical, stressing that the arrests of dissidents continue in the country, where some see in MBS a character, authoritarian and impulsive.


Pardon royal


The hope of the wife of the blogger has also a delegation of european parliamentarians. On his return from Riyadh, in November, one of them, Josef Weidenholzer, pointed out that defenders local human rights felt that Raïf could be included on a list of pardons royal. “This is what he told me. I don’t know if that’s true, ” said Ensaf Haidar.


Mr. Weidenholzer could not be reached by AFP. For his part, the former French minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, who led the delegation, refused to speak on the subject, pointing to its delicate nature.


By 2015 already, a head of switzerland had referred to a pardon can Raïf Badawi.


“We hope that it is on the list of pardons” this time, told AFP a representative of the company saudi national for the rights of the person, while pointing a potential obstacle to his release : his father, in favour of the punishment of her son, and whose approval would be necessary.


“This problem must be fixed before the forgiveness of royal is granted “, said the official who requested anonymity.


Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Sherbrooke, after having obtained the right of asylum in Canada, and regularly speaks to her husband : she called at the prison two or three times per week.


Their conversations are short, of the order of fifteen minutes, and Raïf don tells him little of his conditions of detention. His morale ? “It depends,” she said. “Keep hope for Raïf, it is more difficult. Me, I kept hope because I see the world, the social networks… the governments who speak of Raïf. “


The young woman continued to campaign for him, with its children of 14, 13 and 10 years old, who in June had launched in Canada a call to the release. In 2015, it is in the name of Raïf that it had recovered the Sakharov prize for freedom of thought by the european Parliament in Strasbourg, in eastern France.


She has also contacted the services of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who is to receive the prince in February in Paris. What message would the president Macron delivers at prince Mohammed ? Appeared hitherto serene and determined, the young woman is visibly moved by the question. Then, she resumes : “I would like to ask the prince that he grant his forgiveness to my husband, because my children need their father. “A father they have not seen that photo since five years.

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