10/07/2015, 00.00
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Pen Printer prize awarded to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, in jail for "insulting Islam”

The activist is serving a 10 year sentence and a thousand lashes for having promoted online debates on current events, politics and religion. Wikipedia founder accepted the award on his behalf and launched a new appeal for his release. His wife Ensaf Haidar says he was "honored" by such prestigious award

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, in prison for "insulting Islam" in his online writing, has won the PEN Pinter Prize - created in 2009 in memory of Nobel Harold Pinter - for his positions in defense of human rights and freedom of speech and thought.

The writer is currently being held in prison in the kingdom, to serve a sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He received the coveted literary award - given annually to a British writer and a International colleague - together with the poet and journalist James Fenton. In the past Hanif Kureishi and Salman Rushdie have been recognized.

Accepting the award on behalf of Badawi, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said that the government should "show moral leadership" and try to obtain his release. For his work as a blogger and activist, says Wales, he "should be rewarded" and "not locked up behind bars, facing floggings".

The British poet and journalist James Fenton points out "the simplicity of the liberal goals of Badawi," their "modesty" that contrasts with the "ferocity of punishment that was imposed." He describes a world of "unimaginable cruelty", but "intimately tied to our business, strategic, military interests and diplomatic relations."

Saudi Arabia applies a strict version of Islamic law (Sharia) and does not tolerate any form of political dissent. Internet and social media such as Facebook and twitter are highly popular in the Kingdom. However, the authorities forcibly suppress all criticism, dissent or calls for change.

Badawi had been arrested in 2012 and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. However, the judges of the Court of Appeal considered the sentence too mild and imposed 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison, plus a fine of 193 thousand euro A verdict which was approved yesterday by the highest courts  which have punished the man for having created a "liberal" blog – later closed - and "insulting Islam by using the electronic media."

For four years Badawi managed the Liberal Saudi Network, a site that encouraged discussion on the internet of the most important current events, politics and even religion.

His wife says she had hoped he may have been freed. In a recent phone interview, he told her not to expect his return home "in the near future." This is why Ensaf Haidar is once again appealing to international organizations and activists, to resume the mobilization campaign for the release of her husband.

For this Ensaf Haidar turns once again organizations and international activists, to resume the mobilization campaign for the release of her husband and said he was "honored" by the award.

In the past a video taken by a mobile phone that showed the floggings inflicted on the blogger was widely circulated online; the images sparked international protest and appeals for clemency. In response, the authorities in Riyadh had expressed "surprise and dismay" at the criticism and rejected all forms of interference in the internal affairs of the country.

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