A witness says a Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam has been flogged 50 times in the Red Sea city of Jiddah as authorities started carrying out his sentence, which includes 1,000 lashes.

The witness says Raif Badawi was flogged after Friday prayers outside a mosque. His feet and hands were bound but his face was visible. He remained silent during the lashings.

The witness spoke on condition of anonymity fearing government reprisal.

Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia's powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded.

Amnesty International said Badawi would receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks.

Saudi Arabia's close ally, the United States, called on authorities to cancel the punishment.