Raif Badawi campaign image by Amnesty International
Raif Badawi campaign imageAmnesty International

A Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badawi was on Friday served the first 50 lashes out of the total 1,000 that he was sentenced to by the local religious court as punishment for "insulting Islamic religious figures".

Badawi was lashed outside Al-Juffali mosque in Jeddah following the Friday prayers. The site has been used by Saudi religious courts for carrying out several such sentences, including executions, giving it the nick name "Chop Chop Square".

The Amnesty International, which has opposed the move, confirmed on Twitter that flogging of Raif Badawi for "insulting Islam" was carried out on Friday.  The flogging incident was also confirmed by the Yemen-born Swiss writer Elham Manea. On her Twitter account ‏@ElhamManea, she posted: "Urgent: #raifbadawi was lashed now 50 lashes in front of a mosque today. It is the first part of his lashing penalty of 1,000 lashes."

On Thursday, a Reuters report citing the Amnesty International stated that Badawi would receive 50 lashes on Friday and the rest of the sentence would be carried out over a period of 50 weeks.

Raif Badawi, who set up the website "Free Saudi Liberals" , was arrested in June 2012 and charged with offences ranging from cyber crime to disobeying his father and apostasy, or abandoning his faith.

On his website, he had published articles that were found to be critical of senior Saudi religious figures and others from Muslim history.

He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, besides a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals ($266,666). He was initially sentenced for seven years and was to be flogged 600 times; however, Saudi prosecutors challenged the sentence to 1,000 lashes and ten years imprisonment.