Jailed Saudi blogger wins international human rights prize

Published October 29th, 2015 - 12:11 GMT
Raif Badawi is currently imprisoned for insulting clerics in Saudi Arabia. (AFP/File)
Raif Badawi is currently imprisoned for insulting clerics in Saudi Arabia. (AFP/File)

A Saudi blogger sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes has won the European Union’s prestigious Sakharov Prize for human rights.

On Thursday, Raif Badawi was honored as a symbol of the fight for freedom of speech after a vote at the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg.

“I urge the king of Saudi Arabia to free him, so he can accept the prize,” Parliament President Martin Schulz said.

Schulz described the Saudi blogger as “an extremely good man, an exemplary man who has had imposed on him one of the most gruesome penalties that exist in this country, which can only be described as brutal torture.”

‘Message to Saudi Arabia’

The award, which is named after the Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, was established in 1988 to honor people and organizations that are defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“The European Parliament has today sent a strong political and humanitarian message to Saudi Arabian authorities,” said Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group, which is a political group in the European Parliament.

A sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes has been handed down to Badawi for insulting Wahhabi clerics. The Saudi blogger has been also fined  $266,000.

The sentence came despite the denunciation of the Saudi regime’s treatment of the 31-year-old activist by the United Nations, the European Union, and many other international rights bodies and countries.

Riyadh has been criticized by international human rights organizations for implementing repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.

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