Sunday 22 April 2018

Calls for activist's release before 950 lashes

Raif Badawi. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Raif Badawi. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Jane O'Faherty

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has called for the immediate release of Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian human rights activist imprisoned in his own country.

Mr Schulz urged King Salman to pardon the blogger, who was sentenced to a decade in prison and 20 weeks of flogging for speaking out against Saudi authorities.

He made the call as the European Parliament presented the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Mr Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar.

Mr Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine for publishing online posts that were considered blasphemous by authorities.

His first public lashing in January of this year sparked an international outcry. Mr Badawi still faces 950 lashes over a 20-week period, and he has recently been placed in isolation.

Meanwhile, Ensaf Haidar lives in exile in Canada with their two children. Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Schulz said Mr Badawi was "an inspiration for all those fighting in the region and beyond.

"Despite great risk, as a blogger he has bravely endeavoured to foster free thought and exercised his right to freedom of expression filling a vacuum left by the lack of a free press in his country," he said.

He added that Europe was prepared for dialogue on human rights but stressed "no inhumane penal system will prevent us from fighting for human rights".

Mr Badawi joins a legion of human rights luminaries who have received the award, such as Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Irish Independent

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