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Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi wins EU human rights prize

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

Raif Badawi was honoured with the award as a symbol of the fight for freedom of speech after a vote, EU politicians said.

The prize will be announced publicly later in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

The freedom of thought award is named after the Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. It was set up in 1988 to honour people and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Mr Badawi was one of three nominees for the prize, along with the Venezuelan opposition movement Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, and assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz said: "I urge the king of Saudi Arabia to free him, so he can accept the prize."

Mr Schulz described Mr Badawi 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".

Mr Badawi is serving a 10-year sentence after being convicted of insulting Islam and breaking Saudi Arabia's technology laws with his liberal blog.

He also was sentenced to 1,000 lashes, spread over 20 instalments, and fined 266,000 US dollars (£175,000).

The flogging has been suspended since he received 50 lashes in January, a punishment that sparked international outrage.

Western governments have condemned Mr Badawi's treatment, and rights groups including Amnesty International have campaigned for his release.

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the European Parliament's Liberal bloc, said: "The European Parliament has sent today a strong political and humanitarian message to Saudi Arabian authorities.

"We urge His Majesty King Salman to release Raif Badawi from prison and in any case to end the barbaric punishment of flogging."

In February, the EU parliament voted in favour of a resolution calling for Mr Badawi's immediate and unconditional release from jail. They called his flogging a "cruel and shocking act".


From Belfast Telegraph