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12th Nov 2018

Raif Badawi: Saudi blogger wins Sakharov Prize

  • A demonstration for the release of Badawi outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Helsinki (Photo: Amnesty Finland)

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticising the country’s religious establishment, was awarded on Thursday (29 October) the European Parliament’s 2015 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.

EP president Martin Schulz, who announced the prize winner in Strasbourg, said that Badawi’s flogging amounts to “permanent torture” and called on Saudi king Salman to release the blogger.

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Badawi was arrested in 2012 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a large fine of around $300,000 for insulting Islamic values on his website, called Free Saudi Liberals.

Allegedly, Badawi’s website hosted material criticising senior religious figures and he suggested that the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University had become a den for terrorists.

He was brought in front of a court on several charges, including apostasy.

"The charges against Badawi are based solely on his peaceful exercise of his right to free expression," Human Rights Watch, an organisation monitoring human rights violations, said earlier this year, adding that Badawi set up his online platform to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia.

He received the first set of 50 lashes in January this year before hundreds of spectators in Jeddah, but the rest of the flogging was postponed following international outcry.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International called the flogging “a vicious act of cruelty, which is prohibited under international law.”

On Thursday, Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, now living in Canada with their children, said that according to trustworthy sources, Badawi’s flogging will resume soon.

Badawi was nominated by the Socialists and Democrats, the European Conservatives and Reformists group, and the Greens in the EP.

The EP’s freedom of thought award, set up in 1988, is named after the Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.

Other finalists for the prize were assassinated Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and Venezuelan opposition movement Mesa de la Unidad Democratica.

Earlier this month, Badawi won the Pen Pinter Prize for championing free speech.

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