World

Merkel's deputy says case of blogger Raif Badawi straining Saudi-German relations

In this Saturday March 7, 2015 picture activists of the global civic movement Avaaz hand over signatures of an online petition to Germany's Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy,  Sigmar Gabriel, left, during a demonstration in front of the military airport of Tegel Berlin.  Gabriel, stopped on his way to board a plane to Saudi Arabia. The  petition wants to help free the Saudi Blogger  Raif Badawi, Shortly before meeting with the Saudi king on Sunday, German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel criticized a court-ordered punishment against the  Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam on a liberal blog.   (AP Photo/dpa, Bernd von Jutrczenka)

In this Saturday March 7, 2015 picture activists of the global civic movement Avaaz hand over signatures of an online petition to Germany's Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel, left, during a demonstration in front of the military airport of Tegel Berlin. Gabriel, stopped on his way to board a plane to Saudi Arabia. The petition wants to help free the Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi, Shortly before meeting with the Saudi king on Sunday, German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel criticized a court-ordered punishment against the Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam on a liberal blog. (AP Photo/dpa, Bernd von Jutrczenka)  (The Associated Press)

German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has criticized the sentence against Saudi blogger Raif Badawi shortly before meeting Sunday with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh.

The German news agency dpa quoted Gabriel as saying "the harshness of this sentence, especially the corporal punishment, is something unimaginable for us, and of course it weighs on our relations (with Saudi Arabia)."

Badawi was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison, a hefty fine and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam. He had urged Saudis to share opinions about the role of religion in the country on his Free Saudi Liberals website.

The case prompted harsh criticism from human rights groups.

Gabriel, who is Germany's economy minister, also met with three female human rights activists during his Saudi stop on a tour of Gulf states.