Iranian filmmaker, rights lawyer awarded EU's Sakharov Prize

Reuters and Ahram Online, Monday 17 Dec 2012

Two Iranian dissidents, filmmaker Jafar Panahi and rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, receive EU's Sakharov Prize for Human Rights; Tehran calls move 'political'

Jafar Panahi
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (Photo by Reuters)

Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi and Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh on Sunday received the European Union's Sakharov Prize for Human Rights. Both winners were nominated for the award for the ostensible roles they played in "defending fundamental liberties."

The Iranian government has criticised the European Union for granting the award to the two Iranian dissidents.

"The decision to honour Sotoudeh and Panahi was a political move," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying.

In comments relayed on state television, Mehmanparast added that the EU had adopted a "selective attitude" vis-a-vis human rights, failing, for example, to take action whenever Israel killed Palestinian civilians.

Named in honour of Soviet-era scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, the prize has been awarded annually by the European Parliament since 1988. The first recipients were South Africa's Nelson Mandela and Russian author and dissident Anatoly Marchenko.

Members of the Russian punk band 'Pussy Riot' were also nominated for this year's award.

Panahi, 52, began his career as a cinematographer for the Iranian army and became a prize-winning director, clinching the top prize at the 2000 Venice Film Festival with his film 'The Circle.'

In December 2010, the Iranian authorities found Panahi guilty of producing anti-government propaganda and the filmmaker was placed under house arrest.

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