In a clear message to Saudi Arabia, a blogger sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes has won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize for human rights.
Parliament head Martin Schulz, announcing the award, denounced the sentence the pro-democracy blogger faces as “brutal torture” and called on Saudi King Salman to free Raif Badawi immediately and to ensure the respect of human rights.
“This man has had … imposed on him one of the cruelest penalties which can only be described as brutal torture,” Schulz said.
“I call on the Saudi king to immediately free him,” he told a packed assembly, adding that the 28-nation European Union expected its partners to live up to its standards on the crucial question of human rights.
“Relations depend on human rights being respected by our partners … they are not only not being respected but are being trod underfoot,” he said in remarks translated from the German.
The award, which is named after the Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, was established in 1988 to honor people and organizations that are defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“The European Parliament has today sent a strong political and humanitarian message to Saudi Arabian authorities,” said Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group, which is a political group in the European Parliament.
A sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes has been handed down to Badawi, 31, for insulting Wahhabi clerics. The Saudi blogger has been also fined USD 266,000.