'Raif is not a criminal:' Saudi blogger's wife accepts award from European Parliament

Members of the European Parliament honoured imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi with the 2015 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday.

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Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison in May, 2014, for criticizing Saudi Arabian clerics on his website in 2012.

He is also facing a fine of at least $300,000. An appeals court overturned an initial sentence of seven years in prison and 600 lashes.

Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Sherbrooke, Que., with the family's three children, accepted the award on behalf of her husband Wednesday.

"Raif is not a criminal," she said at the ceremony.

"He is a writer and a free thinker – that is all. Raif Badawi's crime is being a free voice in a country that does not accept anything other than a single opinion and a single thought."

Badawi received 50 of the 1,000 lashes in January during a public flogging, before the punishment was put on hold because of health concerns and other undisclosed reasons.

However, his sentence was upheld in June and he remains in jail.

"Raif Badawi was brave enough to raise his voice and say no to their barbarity. That is why they flogged him," said Haidar.

Members of the European Parliament also renewed calls for his release.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz called Badawi an "inspiration for all those fighting for fundamental rights in the region" and urged King Salman of Saudi Arab to issue a pardon and release him unconditionally.

"No terror, no inhumane penal system will prevent us from fighting for human rights," he said.

"No security agreement, no weapons deal or oil money may deter us."

Badawi's supporters tried to deliver 31,000 letters demanding his release to Saudi Arabia's Embassy in Ottawa last month., but were met by closed doors.

Haidar has previously stated that she would like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to provide his support, and she is hopeful the Canadian government can send her husband a passport.


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