RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia postponed Friday the flogging of blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison.
Badawi was arrested in 2012 for cybercrime and insulting Islam through his website The Liberal Saudi Network. He received the first 50 lashes on Jan. 9. The remaining 950 lashes were to be administered in increments of 50 each Friday.
There has been public outcry over the harsh sentence but it is unclear what role, if any, that played in the postponement decision.
The U.S. Department of States has expressed concern about the Kingdom's apostasy laws which it says restrict freedom of expression and religion, and called on Saudi officials in early January to "cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi's case and sentence."
On Thursday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein appealed to Saudi King Abdullah to stop the flogging and pardon Badawi.
"Flogging is, in my view, at the very least, a form of cruel and inhuman punishment. Such punishment," the high commissioner pointed out, "is prohibited under international human rights law, in particular the Convention against Torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified."
The U.N.'s Committee Against Torture is expected to review Saudi Arabia's implementation of the convention next year.