02/06/2015 07:35 EST | Updated 04/08/2015 05:59 EDT

Saudi blogger spared flogging for at least another week: Amnesty International

MONTREAL - Saudi Arabia postponed the scheduled flogging of blogger Raif Badawi for a fourth consecutive week, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights organization said Badawi was spared the punishment Friday for unknown reasons.

The blogger with ties to Canada is serving a 10-year prison sentence — including 1,000 lashes — for penning a blog criticizing Saudi Arabia's clerics.

The first 50 lashes were delivered Jan. 9 and Amnesty International said Badawi was expected to receive 50 more every week for the following 19 weeks.

But since, the punishment was postponed twice on medical grounds and twice for unspecified reasons.

Badawi is not a Canadian citizen but his wife and children fled Saudi Arabia in 2012 and settled in Sherbrooke, Que., in 2013.

He was arrested in 2012 after writing blog posts critical of Saudi Arabia's clerics.

The blog has since been shut down.

Badawi was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes, but an appeals judge stiffened the punishment and fined him one million Saudi riyals, or more than $300,000.

Badawi's detention and sentence have stirred up worldwide condemnation.

Canadian authorities including now-former foreign affairs minister John Baird, Development Minister Christian Paradis and Andrew Bennett, Canada's ambassador for religious freedom, have publicly condemmned the sentence.

In a statement, Amnesty called on Saudi Arabia to immediately and unconditionally release those imprisoned for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Amnesty says Badawi is among a dozen prisoners of conscience who are behind bars for their peaceful activism.

The rights organization said King Salman bin Abdul Aziz recently announced a royal pardon for certain prisoners, but it fears Badawi will be excluded.

The organization also said earlier this week that Badawi's case was transferred to criminal court, but it didn't know the implications of that legal move.