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Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi Wins Human Rights Prize

FILE - An Amnesty International activist holds a picture of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi during a protest against his flogging punishment, in front of Saudi Arabia's embassy in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 29, 2015.

The European Parliament has awarded its annual Sakharov Prize for human rights to Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Muslim clerics.

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz announced the selection Thursday, saying Badawi's sentence is "a kind of torture" and "one of the most cruel sentences possible" in Saudi Arabia. He said he had spoken with the King of Saudi Arabia to ask him to pardon Badawi and to release him so he can travel to Strasbourg in December to accept his prize.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 after founding a website that served as an online platform for political and religious debate. He was charged with insulting Islam and his 10-year prison sentence was upheld by the Saudi Supreme Court in June 2015.

He was also ordered to pay a fine of $266,000.

Badawi is reported to be in poor health. He received the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes in a public display in January 2015. Subsequent lashes were set to be delivered in sets of 50 over 20 sessions, but were suspended due to his poor health and to international outcry.

In February, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for Badawi's release, calling his public whipping a "cruel and shocking act."

Badawi's wife and children have fled to Canada because of death threats.

The Sakharov Prize is named for Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and is awarded by the European Parliament to people and organizations who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The two other finalists for this year's prize were the Venezuelan opposition movement Mesa de la Unidad Democratica and the assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead in Moscow in February 2015.