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Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, was in Ottawa on Thursday to back federal politicians and Amnesty International in requesting that Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally demand her husband’s freedom.FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press

At 4 a.m. on Fridays, when the streets outside Ensaf Haidar's apartment in Sherbrooke are dark and silent, she sits alone agonizing about what may be taking place in a public square nearly 10,000 kilometres away.

At that moment, her husband, Raif Badawi, could be standing shackled outside a mosque in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. An officer of the Saudi government may be raising a cane and, for the first of 50 times in a five-minute span, bringing it down forcefully across the back and legs of his slightly built prisoner.

For the the crime of criticizing clerics and "insulting Islam," Mr. Badawi, 31, has been sentenced to receive that same punishment 20 times over on successive Fridays, for a total of 1,000 lashes. He has also been given a 10-year prison sentence and fined about $319,000.

As of Thursday, the lashings had been meted out just once, on Jan. 9. The Saudis determined that Mr. Badawi was not healthy enough to undergo beatings in the two weeks that followed. But he was scheduled to receive the second round this Friday.

"That is the hardest moment of my life, every Friday, whether they say there is a lashing – which just kills me, it devastates me – or if they say there isn't one, that it's been postponed, it still is as devastating," says Ms. Haidar who, along with the couple's three children, is now a refugee in Canada. "It's basically the toughest moment I can possibly endure."

Ms. Haidar was in Ottawa on Thursday to back federal politicians and Amnesty International in requesting that Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally demand Mr. Badawi's freedom.

Representatives of all political parties stand united in common cause with Mr. Badawi, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler told a news conference. Mr. Cotler, who is acting as the legal counsel for Mr. Badawi and Ms. Haidar, is also enlisting politicians from different countries to press the Saudis to end the "cruel and inhuman" floggings and to release both Mr. Badawi and the lawyer who was jailed for acting on his behalf.

When Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud died last week, Governor-General David Johnston was dispatched to Riyadh to offer Canada's condolences.

"Saudi Arabia is an ally of Canada and the Western world," said Wayne Marston, the international human rights critic for the New Democrats, "but they are not an ally to humanity with the way that they use these barbaric treatments on their own citizens."

The fact that Ms. Haidar and her children – Najwa, 11; Tirad, 10; and Myriam, 7 – have been given refuge in Canada means this country has a special role to play in trying to end his torture, said Alex Neve, the secretary-general for Amnesty International Canada.

Among other interventions, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird raised the case of Mr. Badawi with a member of the Saudi Royal Family at a meeting in Switzerland last week.

But Mr. Badawi "still faces the agonizing prospect of another 950 lashes," said Mr. Neve. That is why an appeal has been made directly to Mr. Harper, he said. "It is absolutely important and timely for him to get involved, for Prime Minister Harper to intervene and, at the highest levels, make it clear to the Saudi government, that Canada demands and expects freedom now for Raif Badawi."

Mr. Harper's spokesman, Jason MacDonald, said the punishment handed to Mr. Badawi "is a gross violation of human dignity" and Canadian officials will continue to raise concerns about his case. But, said Mr. MacDonald, "as Mr. Badawi is not a Canadian citizen, we are limited in the actions we may take on his behalf."

Still, Ms. Haidar said she believes action by Mr. Harper could end her husband's imprisonment. She last talked to Mr. Badawi three days ago by telephone. "He said 'take care of yourself.' I said 'take care of yourself.'"