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Quebec officially issues Raif Badawi immigration certificate

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CTV Montreal
Published Thursday, June 18, 2015 6:37PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 18, 2015 10:22PM EDT

Quebec has officially given Raif Badawi an immigration certificate that will accelerate efforts to bring him to Canada.

It was presented to his wife Ensaf Haidar during a ceremony At Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil’s Montreal office Thursday.

Weil announced last week the government would be issuing the immigration selection certificate on humanitarian grounds, which would speed up the process to allow him to reunite with his family in Quebec.

Raif Badawi, who received a sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes after he criticized Saudi Arabia’s clerics on a liberal blog he founded.

The Saudi blogger has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since 2012 for allegedly insulting Islam in his blog posts. Badawi’s wife and three children came to Canada more than a year ago as refugees after facing persecution in the Arab world. They now live in Sherbrooke.

Earlier this month, the Saudi Supreme court upheld the verdict against Badawi of 1,000 lashes and a 10-year prison sentence. Badawi has only been flogged once. His other sessions have been postponed.

The certificate is mainly a symbolic gesture that will help speed up the immigration process, but it doesn’t get him out of jail – only Saudi Arabia has the power to let him go.

Amnesty International says this certificate gives him hope while he remains behind bars. His family says his morale is low.

At the ceremony, Haidar thanked the Quebec government for all its work and support and continued to urge Quebecers and people around the world to be vocal about her husband’s case.

According to Amnesty International, more than 160,000 Quebecers have sent letters to Ottawa urging them to act and get Badawi released.

Last week, Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said Canada will continue to speak out against the Saudi government, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada’s power is limited because Badawi isn’t a Canadian citizen.

Quebec’s International Relations Minister Christine St. Pierre met with her federal counterpart recently and says she wants Ottawa to take it one step further.

“What we are asking the federal government to do is switch gears. So the government has to take the lead in the situation and we are asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to be the leader in this matter and to ask his allies abroad to pressure the government of Saudi Arabia,” she said.

The only way Badawi’s sentence can be overturned is with a royal pardon. His family is asking people to continue to be vocal in hopes the Saudi government will grant the pardon so the family can finally be reunited.

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