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Raif Badawi's wife accepts prestigious Sakharov Prize for human rights

The Quebec wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi received a standing ovation at the European Parliament assembly as she accepted a prestigious human rights award on his behalf.

Saudi blogger sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islamic values

Ensaf Haidar holds up a photo of her imprisoned husband, Raif Badawi, while accepting a human rights award on his behalf in Strassbourg, France. (European Parliament News)

The Quebec wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi received a standing ovation at the European Parliament assembly today as she accepted a prestigious human rights award on his behalf. 

Ensaf Haidar, who claimed refugee status in Quebec and lives with their three children in the Eastern Townships, accepted the European Union's prestigious Sakharov Prize at a ceremony in Strasbourg, France today. 

"Raif Badawi was brave enough to raise his voice and say no to their barbarity. That is why they flogged him," Haidar she said in a speech, cited by the European Parliament's news service.

In 2014, Badawi was found guilty of insulting Islamic values, "promoting liberal thought" and "going beyond the realm of obedience" by suggesting on his website that the Saudi kingdom should become more democratic.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He also faces a hefty fine.

The punishment was suspended after Badawi received the first 50 lashes in January but he has remained behind bars.

Hunger strike launched, wife says

Last week, Haidar said Badawi had begun a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

Haidar has also called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to put more pressure on the Saudi government.

In June, the Quebec government granted Badawi a selection certificate, a first step meant to speed up his immigration process should he be released from prison.

Badawi was one of three nominees for the Sakharov Prize this year, along with the Venezuelan opposition movement Mesa de la Unidad Democratica and assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

Badawi cited as inspiration

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said Badawi has become "a symbol and an inspiration for all those fighting for fundamental rights 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.

The freedom of thought award is named after the Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.

It was set up in 1988 to honour people and organizations who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.

With files from Associated Press

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