Paris, Oct 29 (IANS) A Saudi blogger sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Muslim clerics has won the European Union’s prestigious Sakharov Prize for human rights, the media reported.
Raif Badawi was honoured with the award as a symbol of the fight for freedom of speech. The announcement was greeted with a standing ovation on Thursday at the European Parliament assembly in Strasbourg, France, Canadian online Globe and Mail reported.
“I urge the king of Saudi Arabia to free him, so he can accept the prize,” Parliament President Martin Schulz said.
The freedom of thought award was named after the Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. It was set up in 1988 to honour people and organisations who are defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Badawi was one of three nominees for the prize this year, along with the Venezuelan opposition movement Mesa de la Unidad Democratica and assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
“The European Parliament has sent today a strong political and humanitarian message to Saudi Arabian authorities,” said Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberal bloc. “We urge His Majesty King Salman to release Raif Badawi from prison and in any case to end the barbaric punishment of flogging.”