STOCKHOLM – The Right Livelihood Award — known as the "Alternative Nobel" — appealed Wednesday on Saudi Arabia to free three jailed human rights defenders and recipients of this year's prize.
The foundation also urged that the kingdom stop "harassing and killing those who fight" for democracy. Ole von Uexkull, foundation head, said the three jailed Saudi men had "acted through peaceful means" in their activism.
Created in 1980, the annual Right Livelihood Award honors efforts that the prize founder, Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, felt were being ignored by the Nobel prizes.
In September, the 1 million kronor ($110) cash award was given to three Saudi activists — Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani and Waleed Abu al-Khair. The honorary award was given to two Latin American anti-corruption crusaders — Thelma Aldana of Guatemala and Colombia's Ivan Velasquez.
The foundation said two family members and Yahya Assiri, another Saudi rights activist, will attend the award ceremony planned in Stockholm next week.
Al-Qahtani and al-Hamid are founding activists of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights, known by its Arabic acronym HASEM. In 2013, they were sentenced to 10 and 11 years respectively. Soon after, other verdicts followed against nearly a dozen members. The sentences came in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in the Mideast.
The third Saudi recipient, activist and lawyer Al-Khair, defended a blogger sentenced to prison and lashings over his posts. Al-Khair was arrested in 2014 for signing a statement with dozens of others calling for reforms in the kingdom. He later received a 15-year sentence for "disobeying the ruler" and "harming the reputation of the state by communicating with international organizations," likely over his work as an outspoken activist.