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Imprisoned Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi Wins EU's Most Prestigious Human Rights Prize

Badawi was chosen from among nominees including murdered Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, political prisoners in Venezuela, and Edna Adan Ismail, a Somali activist who campaigns against FGM.
Photo by Cole Burston

The family of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi have said they're delighted to discover that he has won the European Union's top human rights honor, the Sakharov Prize, amid fears that he will be flogged again.

Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a total of 1,000 lashes for a range of offenses and insulting religious authorities, after he set up the "Liberal Saudi Network," a now non-operative website that aimed to provide a forum for public debate. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals ($266,000).


His first 50 lashes were administered publicly on January 9 following Friday prayers in front of the al-Jafali mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. Subsequent rounds have been repeatedly put off, after international outcry and reports that he had not adequately healed.

Related: Jailed Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi's Writings Published in Quebec

Badawi was chosen from among nominees includingmurdered Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, political prisoners in Venezuela, and Edna Adan Ismail, a Somali activist who campaigns against female genital mutilation.

Badawi family friend and spokesperson Elham Manea told VICE News: "It's good news. We are very happy about this signal because it's a message that the European parliament is standing on the side of freedom of expression, but we are also hoping it will lead to an end to this ordeal because how long should a person go through this psychological and physical torture?"

'We have a source that said there's a possibility that he will be lashed again'

"In my opinion it shows… the European parliament is not willing to look the other way when it concerns the human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia."

Manea told VICE News that Badawi's family were calling again on Saudi Arabia's King Salman "to allow [Badawi] to leave Saudi Arabia and be reunited with his family in Canada."

Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, and the couple's three children have taken refuge in Quebec.


Related: Congolese Gynecologist Awarded EU's Top Human Rights Prize for Work Treating Rape Victims

Manea also spoke about the rumors that emerged earlier in the week saying Badawi's flogging might resume soon, this time inside a prison instead of publicly.

She said his the family have not confirmed this information but, "we have a source that said there's a possibility that he will be [lashed again]."

"We're hoping that this will not be the case, particularly after this prize," she added, but "you can only imagine how the kids are feeling."

Manea also said that Haidar remained hopeful that Badawi would be released soon. "There's always this hope that perhaps the Saudi government and King Salman will finally address the issue because this is a terrible, terrible mistake. What did he do for God's sake? If you look at his case it is riddled with mistakes."

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was established in 1988 in honor of Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov. Since then notable recipients have included Malala Yousafzai, Aung San Suu Kyi, Kofi Annan and the staff of the United Nations, and the Arab Spring.

Last year, the prize was awarded to Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege.

Related: A Saudi Arabian Activist Will Get 50 Lashes Every Friday for the Next 20 Weeks

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd