Assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a Ukraine military pilot held on murder charges by Moscow, and jailed Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi were shortlisted yesterday (10 September) for the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
The prize is awarded every year to honour individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression, often falling foul of their governments as a result.
Nemtsov, a 55-year-old former deputy prime minister turned critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down on a bridge just steps from the Kremlin in late February.
His murder sparked global outrage and condemnation as evidence that Putin’s Russia would not tolerate dissident voices.
Authorities have so far failed to track down his killers.
A Saudi Arabian court sentenced Badawi, 31, to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail last year for insulting Islam, but halted the whippings after a first round.
The European Union condemned the sentence, saying “corporal punishment is unacceptable and contrary to human dignity.”
The Russian authorities meanwhile put helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko on trial in July for her alleged involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists in war-torn eastern Ukraine last year.
Wistleblowers get nominations
Among the other nominees were US intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden whose name was also put forward in 2013; Antoine Deltour who leaked details on Luxembourg’s controversial tax break deals with huge multinational firms; and Stephanie Gibaud, who uncovered tax evasion and money laundering at Swiss banking giant UBS.
Also listed were Edna Adan Ismai, a Somali campaigner against female genital mutilation and the Mesa da la Unidad Democracia which represents political prisoners and opposition groups in Venezuela.
The winner will be announced in October.
Last year, the Parliament awarded the prize to Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege for helping victims of gang rapes by soldiers.
Past winners include Pakistani education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, late South African rights icon Nelson Mandela and Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi. The prize carries an award of €50,000.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded by the European Parliament every year since 1988 to individuals or organisations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy.
The award is accompanied by a stipend of €50,000.
Andrei Sakharov, who gave his name to the “European Prize for Freedom of Thought” was a Soviet dissident and physicist, who “sought to raise awareness of the dangers of the nuclear arms race”. He defended political prisoners and victims of political trials.
Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, but he was not allowed to leave the Soviet Union to collect it.
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