Saudi blogger and human rights defender, Raif Badawi, becomes the 2016 laureate of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Raif Badawi, who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Saudi Arabia for “insulting Islam", is also due to receive 1,000 lashes. His flogging sentence has caused an outcry around the world and, today, Parliament President Martin Schulz once again urged Saudi King Salman to free Badawi, so he can accept the prize in person.
Alyn Smith, member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said:
“Raif Badawi has played a major role in promoting freedom of expression and attempting to foster public debate in Saudi Arabia.
However, let’s not forget that his case is emblematic of the brutal crackdown by a government determined to crush all forms of dissent through every means at their disposal. Badawi is one of many prisoners of conscience locked up in prisons across Saudi Arabia and around the world.
“We have called for his release on many occasions without success. The European Parliament has already passed a resolution strongly condemning the flogging of Badawi as a cruel and shocking act. Unfortunately he and many other human rights defenders remain in prison, facing an uncertain future.
“Our values oblige us to be truthful and to be vocal about the systematic, deliberate and widespread human rights abuses going on within Saudi Arabia. Clearly the pressure on the EU Member States and the UK Government is growing, and Badawi’s case is yet another reason why we should reconsider our relationship with Saudi Arabia and demand that core human rights commitments are adhered to by all our partners.”
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded by the European Parliament since 1988 to individuals or organisations considered to have made a significant contribution to the struggle for human rights and democracy.
More information about the prize can be found at the European Parliament's website.
Raif Badawi is a Saudi Arabian blogger, writer and activist and the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals, an online platform for political and religious debate. Reportedly, his website hosted material criticising senior religious figures and Badawi suggested that the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University had become a den for terrorists.
He was arrested in 2012 on a charge of insulting Islam and indicted on several charges including apostasy. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013, and then resentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison plus a fine in 2014. The first 50 lashes were administered before hundreds of spectators on 9 January 2015. Subsequent sets have been postponed in the face of international condemnation and Badawi's dire state of health. Having received death threats, his wife and three children fled to Canada. His sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2015 and he currently remains in jail.