Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger who was sentenced in 2012 to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for launching a website that Saudi officials say insulted Islam, was awarded the European Union's highest human rights prize.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought honors people and groups that champion human rights and democracy. "On the case of Mr. Badawi, fundamental rights are not only not being respected, they are being trodden underfoot," European Parliament President Martin Schulz said Thursday in France after announcing the award. He asked that King Salman let Badawi go free so he could travel to Europe in December for his prize, the Los Angeles Times reports, and said in a statement that "the same should apply to all individuals condemned for having expressed freely their opinions in Saudi Arabia and beyond."
Several Western governments and human rights organizations have called for Badawi's release. In January, he received his first 50 lashes with a large cane in a public square, Amnesty International says. Doctors asked that the second round of lashes be postponed, because Badawi had not yet recovered, but his wife Ensaf Haider said a contact in Saudi Arabia told her the flogging would resume soon. Haider, who now lives in Canada with the couple's three children, said her husband "would be very happy to see the extent to which his fight is shared by so many people in the world. This prize is further evidence of that."