Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh and Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahihave won the Sakharov Prize 2012 which is the annual human rights prize of the European Parliament. They were nominated for the award by the ALDE group and other MEPs in recognition of their exceptional courage in exposing state-sponsored persecution and Human Rights abuses.
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. Jafar Panahi is an Iranian film director whose films focus on the hardships of children, the impoverished and women in Iran. Guy Verhofstadt reacted " I am particularly delighted that for the first time this prize has been awarded to Iranian citizens and in light of current developments it is also a timely moment. This award sends a strong message of support to all those fighting persecution in Iran every day- we recognise your struggle, we support your fight for basic human rights and we award your courage."
Marietje Schaake (D66,Netherlands) " Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi deserve all recognition for their courage to speak out. Their voices resonate the world over, and keep our focus on the terrible repression, violence and censorship Iranians face every day. While the negotiations on the nuclear program are occupying the political agenda´s, today the people of Europe send the strongest sign of support to the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom, dignity and justice."
The Sakharov Prize which will be awarded during an official ceremony in early December is a special award for achievement in the field of human rights and democracy. Past winners include Nelson Mandela (1988), Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (1992),China's Hu Jia (2008) and the activists of the Arab Spring (2011).