Saudi Arabia has postponed the flogging of writer Raif Badawi on medical grounds, Amnesty International has said, according to a Sky news report.
Mr Badawi punishment commenced last week when he was flogged 50 times in public by a Saudi Interior Ministry official and was due to face the same punishment every Friday until he had received 1,000 lashes, followed by 10 years in prison.
Amnesty International said in a statement that the prison doctor concluded that the wounds Mr Badawi had received from his previous beating had not yet healed properly and that he would not be able to withstand another round of lashes at that time.
Following news of the postponement, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme said: “Not only does this postponement on health grounds expose the utter brutality of this punishment, it underlines its outrageous inhumanity.
“The notion that Raif Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous,” Said Boumedouha said.
Saudi Arabia has come under increased pressure from Western countries over its weekly flogging of Mr Badawi for “insulting Islam”, particularly since the Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine, which was condemned by Riyadh.
The UN human rights chief this week urged the Saudi king to pardon Mr Badawi and review the “cruel” penalty of flogging.
“Flogging is, in my view, at the very least, a form of cruel and inhuman punishment,” UN commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.
The United States, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders all denounced the flogging as a horrific form of punishment, saying Mr Badawi was exercising his right to freedom of expression.
His wife, Ensaf Haidar, who sought asylum in Canada with their three children after Mr Badawi was jailed in June 2012, has also pleaded for his release
The co-founder of the now-banned Saudi Liberal Network, was found guilty in a Saudi court of insulting Islam.