Pittella calls for freedom for Raif Badawi - 2015 Sakharov Prize laureate

Pittella calls for freedom for Raif Badawi - 2015 Sakharov Prize laureate

The S&D Group in the European Parliament expressed its great satisfaction at the awarding of the 2015 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to the Saudi Arabian blogger, writer, activist and creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals, Raif Badawi today in Strasbourg. European Socialists and Democrats call on Saudi Arabian authorities to respect freedom of expression and to release Mr Badawi without any condition.

S&D Group president Gianni Pittella said:

"Instead of being here with us to celebrate this great distinction, Raif Badawi remains in prison because of his campaign for freedom and democracy in Saudi Arabia. It was a great honour to welcome his wife, Ensaf Haider, to our Group meeting yesterday evening; she herself also campaigns for freedom and democracy for Saudi Arabia.

"We fully back Raif and Ensaf's fight for democracy and human rights and call once again on the authorities of Saudi Arabia to release Raif without any conditions and all other political prisoners.

"We take this opportunity to remind everyone, and especially the Saudi Arabian authorities, that the respect for human rights is one of the European Union's fundamental values."

Richard Howitt MEP, who backed the nomination as S&D Group foreign affairs coordinator and who hosted Ensaf Haidar in Brussels to campaign for her husband's freedom, said:

"We back Raif's campaign for freedom, freedom for himself, freedom of expression for his country. The awarding of the Sakharov Prize shows we will continue to campaign with Ensaf until Raif is free. We call on His Majesty King Salman to uphold human rights by granting him a pardon. For Ensaf, who is forced to receive this award on behalf of Raif, the one prize she most wants is freedom for her husband. The pain she wants to alleviate is that of the barbaric punishment being meted on him. The pain we hope this prize may also help lift for Ensaf and her children, is that felt from being separated from a husband and a father.

"Ensaf wrote a book - 'Freedom for Raif Badawi, the Love of My Life'. This week we honour her love for him. We honour him. And in awarding this prize, we honour life itself."

Elena Valenciano, S&D MEP and chair of the subcommittee of human rights added:

"Raif Badawi's only crime was to express his thoughts pacifically. His aim was only to 'break down the walls of ignorance', promote respect for freedom of speech, and defend the rights of women, minorities and the most vulnerable. His only weapons were his words and for them he got a sentence of 10 years in prison and an inhumane punishment of 1000 lashes.

"Raif Badawi is a symbol for all those in the world who speak out to defend the rights and freedoms of their society in the most difficult of circumstances. It's because of truly valiant people like Raif and Ensaf that the world is a better place."