Congolese surgeon gets EU award denied to Egypt's Alaa Abdel-Fattah

Ahram Online, Thursday 23 Oct 2014

A surgeon from Congo reecives the Freedom of Thought award for helping rape victims of his country, after Egyptian activist is denied for anti-Israeli tweet

 Alaa Abdel Fattah and Denis Mukwege
Prominent Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah (R) and Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege who campaigns against sexual violence targeting women in war (L) (Photo: AP)

A Congolese gynaecological surgeon has won the European Parliament’s 2014 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, previously denied to Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah for an "anti-Semitic" tweet.

Surgeon Denis Mukwege, 59, received the award for his work to protect female victims of rape in the Congo.

"[Mukwege] founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in 1998, when a war took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where today he still treats victims of sexual violence who have sustained serious injuries," said a statement on the European Parliament's website.

The European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) – a left-wing political group in the European Parliament that originally nominated Abdel-Fattah – withdrew its nomination after a 2012 tweet resurfaced in which Abdel-Fattah mentioned killing Israelis. Pro-Israeli media outlets described the tweet as "anti-Semitic".

"We cannot and will not tolerate such behaviour ... Our group has always favoured debate over political confrontation between peoples, including the Israeli people," GUE/NGL said in a statement on 1 October, withdrawing its nomination for Abdel-Fattah.

In response, Abdel-Fattah, a long time advocate of Palestian rights, said that what he had written about killing Israelis on Twitter was "taken out of context" and part of a "private conversation" on the night of the November 2012 Israeli offensive on Gaza that killed over 100 Palestinians.

Abdel-Fattah, a longtime activist, gained prominence after the 25 January 2011 uprising.

He was jailed for his anti-government activism during the Mubarak years, the one-year-rule of the Military Council following 25 January, and again during the one-year-rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.

He is currently out of jail on bail after appealing a 15-year prison sentence for violating Egypt's controversial protest law and attacking security forces in November 2013 after Morsi's ousting.

Abdel-Fattah joined a hunger strike movement during his most recent stint in prison to protest the detention of political activists and the protest law.

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