Iranian lawyer and filmmaker win EU's Sakharov Prize

Fri Oct 26, 2012 11:29am EDT
 
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By Claire Davenport

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's prize for human rights and freedom of thought was awarded to two Iranians on Friday, a lawyer and a filmmaker who have both been cut off from the outside world for defying the country's leadership.

Imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, 49, and filmmaker Jafar Panahi, 52, were awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for their courage in defending their own and others' basic freedoms, the parliament said.

Named in honor of Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, the prize has been awarded by the European Parliament annually since 1988. The first recipients were Nelson Mandela and Russian author and dissident Anatoly Marchenko. Russian punk group Pussy Riot was also nominated this year.

"The award... is a message of solidarity and recognition to a woman and a man who have not been bowed by fear and intimidation and who have decided to put the fate of their country before their own," said European Parliament President Martin Schulz as he announced the winners.

Marietje Schaake, a Dutch liberal member of the parliament who nominated Sotoudeh for the prize, said the recipients should draw attention to the repressive action carried out by the Iranian authorities towards human rights' activists.

"These winners are true symbols of the long struggle the Iranian people face every day. The systematic repression, use of violence and censorship are felt by the entire population," she said.

"This prize gives support to all those Iranians that pay a high price for their struggle for freedom, justice and dignity."

Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on suspicion of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. She is now serving a six-year jail sentence in solitary confinement.   Continued...

 
Iranian film director Jafar Panahi smiles, following his release on bail, at his home in Tehran May 25, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer