Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh and Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi have been awarded the Sakharov Prize 2012 during a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today. They were nominated for the prestigious prize by the ALDE group with the support of other parliamentarians from across the House.
Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE Leader said "This prize is in recognition of their exceptional courage in exposing state-sponsored persecution and Human Rights abuses. Mrs Sotoudeh remains behind bars and her health is deteriorating and Mr Panahi, though temporarily released, could be re-arrested at any time. This prize is a clear message to the Iranian authorities - human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal. It is time for Iranian ayatollahs to recognise this "
Marietje Schaake (D66,Netherlands) added "These winners are true symbols of the courage of the Iranian people who face repression every day. The systematic use of violence, executions and censorship are felt by the entire population. This prize honours and supports all Iranians who pay a high price for their continuing struggle for freedom, justice and dignity. In the midst of global concerns about Iranian nuclear programme the EU should step up its support for the human rights of the Iranian people, as it is only them who eventually can create a freer and less dangerous Iran. Nasrin Sotoudeh, her husband and her children are paying a very high price for her belief in the fundamental principles of justice and the unbreakable right to a fair trial. They deserve our ongoing and full support."
The Sakharov Prize is the annual human rights prize of the European Parliament. 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 inIran.
Past winners include Nelson Mandela (1988), Aung San Suu Kyi (1990), Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (1992),China's Hu Jia (2008) and the activists of the Arab Spring (2011).