Man Facing 'Most Gruesome' Penalty Wins Elite Award

Raif Badawi gets Sakharov Prize for human rights—but he's stuck in Saudi prison
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2015 8:51 AM CDT
Man Facing 'Most Gruesome' Penalty Wins Elite Award
Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, at a press conference organized by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Amnesty International in Paris, on May 29, 2015.   (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

A Saudi blogger has joined the ranks of Nelson Mandela, Malala, and all other notables who've taken home one of the European Union's most elite human-rights prizes—but as of now, he can't go and collect his award in person. EU leaders announced Thursday that Raif Badawi—who has been in prison since 2012 for the crime of "insulting Islam" on his blog—won the esteemed Sakharov Prize, a "freedom of thought" award established nearly 30 years ago in tribute to those who stand up for democracy and human rights, the AP reports. But Badawi, who was also announced as the co-winner of the PEN Pinter Prize earlier this month for being an "international writer of courage," is stuck in jail, serving out a 10-year sentence and waiting for his next set of 50 lashes (he's already endured the first 50 of the 1,000 he is to face).

EU Parliament President Martin Schulz made an appeal Thursday in Strasbourg, France, imploring Saudi King Salman to let Badawi go, the BBC reports. "This man, who is an extremely good man, an exemplary man, has had imposed on him one of the most gruesome penalties," Badawi said in front of a packed Parliament assembly. Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with their three kids, is also battling for her husband's release, seeking help from new PM Justin Trudeau on social media and writing a memoir to be published next year, the Independent notes. Via the BBC, Haidar tells AFP she sees this latest prize as a "message of hope and courage," but she still references her husband's poor health and worries the lashes could kill him, per the New York Times. (More Saudi Arabia stories.)

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