Saudi blogger Raif Badawi wins EU’s Sakharov rights prize – Reuters

* Western governments want lashings cancelled

* Badawi jailed in 2012 for criticising Saudi clergy

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS, Oct 29 (Reuters) – Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who
has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for
insulting Islam and for cyber crime, was awarded the European
Union’s prize for human rights and freedom of thought on

Badawi received the first of his 50 lashes in January,
prompting strong criticism in Western countries of the kingdom’s
human rights record, including its restrictive laws on political
and religious expression and the status of Saudi women.

This month in London, he was given the International Writer
of Courage award and was co-recipient of the PEN Pinter Prize.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in London on Monday threatened
“potentially serious repercussions” for its ties with Britain
unless a more respectful discourse developed.

British lawmaker Syed Kamall, a member of the European
assembly who nominated Badawi for the EU prize, said, “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.”

A Jeddah court handed Badawi his sentence in 2012 after he
criticised the Saudi clergy in a blog and called for changes in
the way religion is practiced in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, which follows the strict Wahhabi form of
Islam, does not permit the public worship of other faiths or
allow them to maintain places of worship inside the country. In
a new law last year, it included atheism as a terrorist offence.

Named in honour of Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei
Sakharov, Badawi’s latest prize has been awarded by the European
Parliament annually since 1988. The first recipients were Nelson
Mandela and Russian author and dissident Anatoly Marchenko.

(Additional reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Louise


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