The United Nations' top human rights official is appealing to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to pardon a blogger convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to be flogged.

Raif Badawi was brought to a public square in Jiddah last week and flogged 50 times. He was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison, a fine and a total of 1,000 lashes after criticizing Saudi Arabia's powerful clerics on a liberal blog.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, said in a statement Thursday that flogging is "at the very least, a form of cruel and inhuman punishment" prohibited under international human rights law.

He appealed to the king to halt the public flogging by pardoning Badawi "and to urgently review this type of extraordinarily harsh penalty."