Raif Badawi - Winner of the 2015 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought
Raif Badawi is the laureate of this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, following an October 29 decision by EP President Martin Schulz and the political group leaders. Badawi is a blogger from Saudi Arabia currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for insulting Islam on his website promoting social, political and religious debate. The Sakharov award ceremony will be held in Strasbourg on 16 December.
The President of the European Parliament made the following statement on the awarding of the 2015 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to Raif Badawi. He was chosen by President Martin Schulz and political group leaders on Thursday morning in Strasbourg.
"By awarding the Sakharov Prize to Raif Badawi, the European Parliament asserts its support for freedom of speech as one of the fundamental human rights, a right which must be respected everywhere, with no exception.
Mr Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger and writer, courageously expressed his ideas, openly raised his doubts on the rules of his country which he deemed overtly restrictive and fought for the freedom of thought of all Saudis. His commitment to foster political pluralism and religious freedom, calling for the respect of minorities, of women's rights and freedom of speech are the only "crimes" he ever committed.
We call on Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately halt any punishment measures, reconsider the judgement and release Mr Badawi without charges. The same should apply to all individuals condemned for having expressed freely their opinions in Saudi Arabia and beyond.
The international community has been deeply touched by the horrifying punishment to which he was condemned and has reacted strongly in favour of his release. I welcome his nomination for this prize by political groups and his final designation. With this prize, we honour all the people fighting for freedom of speech and thought in the world."
Raif Badawi: a prisioner of conscience
Badawi is a Saudi Arabian blogger, human rights activist and author of the website Free Saudi Liberals. He was arrested in 2012 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a hefty fine for insulting Islamic values on his website.
He was administered the first set of 50 lashes in public in January 2015. The remainder were postponed following international protests. Earlier this week the wife of Raif Badawi, Ensaf Haidar, who is currently living in Canada with their three children, announced that the Saudi authorities have given the green light for the flogging to resume.
In February this year MEPs adopted a resolution strongly condemning the flogging of Badawi as "a cruel and shocking act” and calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities "to release him immediately and unconditionally as he is considered a prisoner of conscience, detained and sentenced solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression”.
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The Democratic Opposition in Venezuela, represented by the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática and political prisoners, and the late Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov were the two other finalists.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. Last year the prize was awarded to doctor Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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