Saudi security forces
Saudi security forces AFP file

A Saudi blogger who was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes will be publicly flogged for the first time on Friday, after prayers outside a mosque in the Red Sea coastal city of Jiddah, The Associated Press (AP) reports.

Raif Badawi was sentenced on charges related to accusations that he insulted Islam on a liberal online forum he had created. He was also ordered by the Jiddah Criminal Court to pay a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals, or about $266,000.

Rights groups and activists say his case is part of a wider clampdown on dissent throughout the kingdom. Officials have increasingly blunted calls for reforms since the region's 2011 Arab Spring upheaval.

Badawi has been held since mid-2012, and his Free Saudi Liberals website is now closed. The case has drawn condemnation from rights groups, noted AP.

He called from prison and informed his family of the flogging, due Friday, said a person close to the case. The person, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal, said Badawi was "being used as an example for others to see."

Badawi's lawyer, Waleed Abul-Khair, was sentenced in July to 15 years imprisonment and barred from traveling for another 15 years after being found guilty by an anti-terrorism court of "undermining the regime and officials," ''inciting public opinion" and "insulting the judiciary."

Badawi was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in relation to the charges, but after an appeal, the judge stiffened the punishment. Following his arrest, his wife and children left the kingdom for Canada.

Lashes are a common punishment in Saudi Arabia for offenses such as insulting the King, blasphemy, or even insulting members of one’s own tribe.

Despite its less than stellar human rights record, Saudi Arabia won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council a year ago, being one of several countries with questionable human rights records to win seats in this body.