Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi, who has been sentenced by Saudi authorities to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam”, has won the European Parliament’s human rights award named after Russian dissident scientist Andrei Sakharov.

Raif Badawi

Raif Badawi

AFP reported on Thursday that upon announcing Badawi’s name as the winner of the 2015 Sakharov Award, European Parliament President Martin Schulz urged the Saudi government to release the jailed blogger.

Schulz also referred to Badawi’s sentence as akin to torture.

Badawi, founder of the Liberal Saudi website, was arrested three years ago and charged with “cyber offences” for demanding an end to the influence of religion on the everyday lives of Saudi citizens.

Badawi’s wife, who has fled Saudi Arabia with her children and settled in Canada, has expressed hope that the award could help secure her husband’s release.

According to an EU website, the Sakharov Award is awarded each year to those “who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe, drawing attention to human rights violations” Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi are among the laureates of the Sakahrov Prize.