by Susannah Cullinane
A Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” has been awarded the European Parliament’s 2015 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Blogger Raif Badawi has been behind bars since 2012 for his online posts while running a blog called Saudi Arabian Liberals, where he hosted political and religious debate and advocated secularism in a highly religious society.
A Jeddah court convicted him in 2014, handing down a 10-year prison term and ordering that Badawi be lashed 1,000 times. The whippings were to be carried out 50 lashes at a time, 20 weeks in a row. Badawi received the first flogging in January 2015, but since then, the punishment has been pushed back several times.
European Parliament President Martin Shulz announced Thursday that Badawi had been awarded the Sakharov Prize.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Freedom of speech
In a statement posted to Twitter, Shulz said in awarding the prize to Badawi, the European Parliament “asserts its support for freedom of speech as one of the fundamental human rights.”
“Mr. Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger and writer, courageously expressed his ideas, openly raised his doubts on the rules of his country which he deemed overtly restrictive and fought for the freedom of thought of all Saudis.
“His commitment to foster political pluralism and religious freedom, calling for the respect of minorities, of women’s rights and freedom of speech are the only ‘crimes’ he ever committed,” the statement said.
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