Saudi-blogger Raif Badawi awarded 2015 Sakharov Prize
The European Union's top human rights prize was awarded Thursday to a persecuted 31-year-old Saudi blogger arrested more than three years ago for his criticism of the oil-rich Gulf Arab kingdom.
The announcement was received with a standing ovation at the European Parliament assembly in Strasbourg, France.
"I urge the king of Saudi Arabia to free him, so he can accept the prize," European Parliament President Martin Schulz said. "Relations depend on human rights being respected by our partners ... they are not only not being respected but are being trod underfoot."
Badawi co-founded the Saudi Liberal Network. He was arrested in June 2012 under cybercrime provisions, and a judge ordered the website shut down after it criticized Saudi Arabia's religious police.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam; he received 50 public lashes in January before the punishment was suspended on health grounds.
The Sakharov Prize, named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, was established in December 1988 by the European Parliament as a means to honour individuals and groups of people who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought.