Punished Saudi blogger gets Sakharov Prize

Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger and activist who has been imprisoned and flogged publicly for criticising Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment, has been awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union’s top human rights award, on Thursday.

The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, called Badawi “an extremely good man, an exemplary man who has had imposed on him one of the most gruesome penalties,” one that “can only really be described as brutal torture.”

The president also urged the Saudi king to “immediately grant mercy to Mr. Badawi and to free him so that he can accept the prize. In the case of Mr. Badawi, fundamental human rights are not only not being respected, they are being trodden underfoot.”

Raif Badawi was arrested in 2012 — on charges that included apostasy, cybercrime and disobeying his father — after he started a website that criticised the Saudi religious establishment. In 2013, he was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 blows with a cane. The next year, he was resentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 blows with a cane. He was not convicted of apostasy, which carries a death sentence.