Dissidents tipped for Nobel in anniversary year

Mon Oct 6, 2008 9:27am EDT
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By John Acher

OSLO (Reuters) - Dissidents fighting for rights in China, Russia and other countries are among those tipped by experts and bookmakers to win the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize in the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The recipient of this year's peace prize will be announced on October 10 in the Norwegian capital from among a near record 197 nominees for what many consider to be one of the world's top accolades.

Academics, pundits and bookmakers speculate annually on who will win the prize worth $1.4 million. Their guesses are often widely off the mark since the secretive five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee does not disclose the names of the nominees.

"I think the most likely winner this year will be a Chinese dissident," said Stein Toennesson, director of Oslo's International Peace Research Institute.

"And I think the two most likely candidates are Gao Zhisheng or Hu Jia who are both in prison," said Toennesson.

Gao is a self-trained lawyer who has defended Chinese citizens, including members of the persecuted Falun Gong spiritual movement, against injustices.

Hu, a young democracy, environment and HIV/AIDS activist, has climbed into the top spot with some online bookmakers. He is tipped favorite at 7-to-4 odds by Irish Paddypower and at 5.50-to-1 on Malta-licensed Betsafe, which put Goa at 10-to-1.

But Toennesson said there was no overwhelming candidate. "There is no towering figure," he told Reuters.   Continued...