Flash: Iranians Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi shortlisted for Sakharov Prize 2012

The Committee on Human Rights of the European Parliament today shortlisted Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh and the Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi for the Sakharov prize 2012. Ms Sotoudeh was initially nominated by Dutch Member of European Parliament Marietje Schaake (D66/ALDE), who managed to rally support of the four largest political groups in the European Parliament (EPP, S&D, Greens and her own ALDE group). The annual human rights prize of the European Parliament has not yet been awarded to an Iranian national. In a closed ballot vote Members of the European Parliament shortlisted three nominees for the annual human rights prize (in alphabetical order) 1. Belarus - Ales Bialiatski; 2. Iran -  Nasrin Sotoudeh, Jafar Panahi; 3. Russia  - Pussy Riot. Ms. Sotoudeh (Tehran, 1963) was arrested in September 2010 on suspicion of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. She is currently serving a six-year jail sentence, in solitary confinement, in the notorious Evin prison, in addition to disbarment and a ten-year ban on leaving the country. Ms. Schaake: "It is virtually impossible for Iranian lawyers to do their work. Clients, often victims of human rights violations, are left defenceless at the mercy of the Iranian authorities and an already flawed justice system". "By sacrificing her own freedom and persisting in her belief in the fundamental principles of justice and the unbreakable right to a fair trial, Ms. Sotoudeh has become a symbol for all Iranians, particularly those critical of the regime, who are denied access to appropriate, competent legal representations. A basic right and indispensable for a fair trail guarantee", Ms. Schaake explains. The Sakharov Prize is awarded in early December as a special award for achievement in the field of human rights and democracy.