EP awards Sakharov Prize to jailed blogger Raif Badawi, calls on Saudi king to set sentence aside

Raif Badawi is the laureate of this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, following an October 29 decision by EP President Martin Schulz and the political group leaders.

Badawi is a human rights activist and blogger from Saudi Arabia currently serving a prison sentence for insulting Islamic values on his website promoting social, political and religious debate.

He was arrested in 2012 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a hefty fine.

“This man, who is an extremely good man and an exemplary good man, has had imposed on him one of the most gruesome penalties that exist in this country which can only be described as brutal torture. I call on King of Saudi Arabia to stop the execution of this sentence, to release Mr Badawi, to allow him to back to his wife and to allow him to travel here for the December session to receive this prize,” Martin Schulz said.

Raif Badawi was one of this year’s three finalists. The other two were the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead in February 2015 in Moscow, and the democratic opposition in Venezuela embodied by the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática and political prisioners.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Belarusians received the Prize twice: in 2004 it was awarded to the Belarusian Association of Journalists. Opposition politician and ex-presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich became the laureate of the Sakharov Prize in 2006.

Belsat.eu, following EP press service

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