The European Union awarded its most prestigious human rights award on Friday to two imprisoned Iranians, the lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and the filmmaker Jafar Panahi.
New York Time, Thomas Erdbrink, 26.10.2012 The European Union’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, whose previous recipients include Nelson Mandela of South Africaand Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, comes at a time of deepening tensions between Iran and the West. Last week, the European Union, which in July began a boycott of Iranian oil, pulled the plug on nearly two dozen Iranian state television and radio channels using European satellite companies for their broadcasts. Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said in a statement that the Sakharov prize was awarded as “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.” He said he hoped that Ms. Sotoudeh and Mr. Panahi would be able to travel toEuropeto receive the prize next September. Ms. Sotoudeh, 49, who is one of Iran’s most prominent human rights activists, is serving a six-year sentence for acting against national security and spreading propaganda against the government. Last week, she started a hunger strike after authorities refused her visits with her two young children. Her husband, Reza Khandan, said he and his family were very excited. “I will tell Nasrin the news as soon as I get the chance to visit her in prison,” he said. Both he and his teenage daughter are barred from leavingIran, so Mr. Khandan was not yet sure who would travel toEuropeto pick up the prize of about $65,000 to be shared with Mr. Panahi. Mr. Panahi, an award-winning filmmaker was sentenced to to a six-year term in 2010, for his involvement in the opposition movement following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed election victory in 2009. He was also banned from making movies for 20 years. In 2003, Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and women’s rights activist now living in exile, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Ms. Sotoudeh was nominated by Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European Parliament who focuses onIran. “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 in a statement. There was no official reaction from the Iranian authorities, who have called Western human rights awards political tools to pressure its leadership.