Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for publishing a liberal blog in Saudi Arabia, has been awarded a prize for showing exemplary courage in upholding freedom of speech.
The International Publishers Association chose Badawi as the first winner of its Prix Voltaire, which was previously known as the IPA Freedom to Publish Prize. His wife Ensaf Haidar accepted the award on his behalf Sunday night in London.
The prize, which consists of a monetary award and a certificate, is "awarded for exemplary courage in upholding freedom of expression and freedom to publish," according to the IPA .
"This prize is intended to honor a person or an organization/institution that has made a notable contribution to the defense and promotion of freedom to publish anywhere in the world."
The prize money, which is more than 7,000 British pounds, will be given to the Raif Badawi Foundation, reported The Guardian . It will be used to continue the ongoing campaign for releasing Badawi and promoting freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia.
“We had many deserving candidates this year, but clearly Raif’s disgraceful ongoing punishment and the extreme risk he ran to express his ideas and those of other free-thinkers, caught the imagination of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee," said IPA Freedom to Publish committee chair Ola Walli.
Badawi had created the website Free Saudi Liberals for debating political and religious issues in Saudi Arabia, before he was initially arrested in 2012 for a number of charges, including insulting Islam and apostasy.
The blogger was then convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013, but he was re-sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison in 2014.
Speaking to the BBC about receiving the prize, Haidar said that the importance of these awards is that they "help to tell the story of how the world rewards Raif, at the same time as Saudi Arabia keeps him locked up in prison."
"Is it possible that the world keeps on giving Raif these awards? This is the 16th award that he has received, and yet he is still sitting in prison. It's supposed to matter to the Saudi government."
Haidar also commented on her husband's current condition, saying that his health is "deteriorating over time."
She added that he "doesn't like to speak about his condition very much, it's not easy for him to consider 10 years of imprisonment and then a further 10 years not being allowed to leave the country."