The European Parliament has chosen Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi as one of the finalists for the Sakharov Prize. The award for freedom of thought was set up in 1988 to honour those working to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Badawi made international headlines in 2014 after a Saudi Arabian court sentenced to him to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for insulting Islam. The sentence has been condemned by governments around the world and Amnesty International played an active role in campaigning against the punishment. After increasing pressure from the international community, Saudi Arabia's high court is now reviewing Badawi's case.
The EU's Social and Democrats group member Pier Antonio Panzeri said: "I can't imagine today that someone here can be bound in public and be lashed just for being brave and expressing their own opinion. By nominating Raif Badawi we want to honour all of those who are fighting for freedom of expression."
The other finalists for the Sakharov Prize are the Democratic Opposition in Venezuela and the Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. The winner will be decided by the EU parliament president and political group leaders on 29 October, which will be followed by an award ceremony in Strasbourg on 16 December.
Last year the EU's conference of presidents voted unanimously to award Denis Mukwege the Sakharov Prize. Mukwege is a gynaecologist who founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. His hospital was credited with treating victims of sexual violence who have sustained serious injuries, particularly during country's armed conflicts, during which rape is used as a weapon of war.