Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger, human rights activist and author of the website Free Saudi Liberals wins the 2015 Sakharov Prize.
Raif Badawi, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a substantial fine for insulting Islamic values. He was administered the first 50 lashes in January 2015. The remaining lashes were postponed following international protests but could resume soon, as his wife warned on Tuesday on Canadian media. His family had to flee to Canada to avoid possible prosecution.
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.
The freedom of thought award is named after the Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. It was set up in 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. Previous laureates include Aung San Suu Kyi and Malala Yousafzai.
This prize should send out a strong signal to Saudi Arabia that freedom of speech and thought is a universal right. Saudi Arabia can lock up the man and they can lash him, but they will only strengthen amongst his countrymen the yearning for free speech and debate that he stands for.