OTTAWA, Ontario

Wife of Saudi blogger pleads for halt to lashings

The wife of an imprisoned Saudi blogger, sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes because he insulted Islam, said Thursday that her husband can’t endure another flogging.

Raif Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar, now a refugee living in Quebec, went to Parliament Hill on Thursday to join lawmakers in urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene personally with the Saudis.

They want the prime minister to push for the release of Badawi, who is set to receive 50 more lashes on Friday. The 32-year-old father of three was lashed 50 times on Jan. 9, but his second scheduled beating was postponed last week for medical reasons.

“Raif’s health condition is getting worse and worse,” Haidar said through a translator. “I am very concerned about him. It is impossible for a human being to be able to withstand 50 lashes weekly.”

Badawi was charged with insulting Islam after he urged Saudis to share opinions about the role of religion in the country on his Free Saudi Liberals website. Saudi Arabia follows a strict form of Islam that includes harsh punishments for challenging customs.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia

Officials declare Flight 370’s disappearance an accident

Malaysia’s government formally declared still-missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 an accident on Thursday and said all those on board were presumed dead, paving the way for compensation claims but angering victims’ families still waiting for evidence of the plane’s fate.

Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the search would continue and “remains a priority.” The Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 aboard.

The plane is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Australia. No confirmed debris has been found. The declaration will help facilitate financial claims by families, and the airline is said to be ready to proceed with the compensation process.

– From news service reports