The wife of jailed Saudi journalist Raif Badawi has asked for a meeting with President Trump, and wants him to push for Badawi's release amid the growing furor over the disappearance and suspected murder of Saudi dissident and columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
"I hope to meet with him as many leaders around the world stand up with me and my case," Ensaf Haider told the Washington Examiner.
International advocacy of Badawi's case has simmered for years, but could become more active after the global outrage over Khashoggi. Badawi, the former editor of news and commentary website Free Saudi Liberals was arrested in 2012 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a large fine. His lashes were suspended after he received 50.
Badawi's criticism of powerful clerics angered authorities. His charges included "insulting Islam through electronic channels” and "going beyond the realm of obedience."
Badawi's wife and three children now live in Canada. In August, a diplomatic crisis erupted when Canada's foreign ministry demanded the release of Badawi and his sister, who had recently been detained. In what was widely interpreted as a warning from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to other would-be critics of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom expelled Canada's ambassador and ordered a wholesale economic withdrawal from Canada.
The Saudi government has been highly sensitive to criticism about the case. An attorney who represented Badawi, Waleed Abu al-Khair, received 15 years in prison for crimes that included "antagonizing international organizations against the kingdom” and “'incitement of public opinion against authorities.”
But Badawi's wife is hoping Khashoggi's presumed murder at the hands of Saudi officials can create new momentum for his release. In a Wednesday tweet, she asked Trump directly for help.
"As a wife who lost her husband.. As a mother who can't answer her kids hard questions.. Please help me Mr. President @realDonaldTrump to bring my hero husband to home from a Saudi prison!" she wrote.
As a wife who lost her husband..— Ensaf haidar ⚜️🍁 (@miss9afi) October 17, 2018
As a mother who can't answer her kids hard questions..
Please help me Mr. President @realDonaldTrump to bring my hero husband to home from a Saudi prison!#FreeRaif
The White House did not respond to an inquiry about Haider's request for a meeting. Last week, Trump said he intended to host Khashoggi's fiancee at the White House after receiving a letter, though a visit has not been announced.
Haider said she would like Trump to use "the good relationship with Saudi Arabia to release [Badawi] from prison."
Haider, an active social media user, said she's worked with the State Department and the office of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on her husband's case. Under former President Barack Obama, the State Department referred to Badawi's treatment as "inhumane" and "brutal."
"I hope. I'm always hoping. I never lose the hope in my fighting," Haider said.
The Trump administration so far is waiting for Saudi Arabia to explain Khashoggi's apparent murder, but has signaled that it wants to maintain relations with the country. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Turkey and Saudi Arabia this week, but on his return told reporters that the U.S. relationship with Saudis was varied and important.
Trump has indicated an unwillingness to cancel billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the effect on U.S. businesses, and despite warning of "severe punishment" also floated the notion of "rouge killers" being responsible after speaking Monday with Saudi King Salman.
Trump said in the Oval Office last week he was unaware of Badawi.
"When you say release the journalist, who are you talking about?" Trump asked. When told, he said, "That I'd have to look into. I'm not familiar with that."
Although the Saudi supreme court reportedly upheld Badawi's sentence in 2015, Haider this week circulated word from a member of the U.K. government that the case may still be pending before that court.