Belarus opposition leader shortlisted for EU human rights prize

BRUSSELS, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - A Belarusian opposition leader is among three candidates shortlisted for the European Union's top human rights award this year, the European Parliament said in a news release.

Alexander Kozulin will compete with Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia and Congo's electoral commission chairman, Abbot Apollinaire Malu Malu, for this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and a sum of 50,000 euros.

According to the press release, Kozulin has been nominated for his "great courage to withstand the [Belarus] regime's actions and to fight for freedom of thought and expression and basic civil rights."

Kozulin was sentenced to five and a half years in jail following protests against the re-election of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in 2006. He was, however, released in August.

The Chinese campaigner for civil rights, environmental protection, and AIDS advocacy, Hu Jia was arrested, charged with "inciting subversion of state power" and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail following his testimony on human rights in China, given on 26 November 2007 via a conference call to the European Parliament's Human Rights Subcommittee.

Abbot Apollinaire Malu Malu has been praised for his efforts aimed at bringing peace to the Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu, and for "dedicating his wisdom and experience to realizing these principles throughout his career."

The shortlist was drawn up from eight candidates, including the Dalai Lama, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Franco-Colombian ex-hostage Ingrid Betancourt, and Russia's Mikhail Trepashkin, a former security service officer convicted of divulging state secrets. Trepashkin was released in November 2007.

The winner will be selected in mid-October and the prize will be awarded to the laureate or his representative in Strasbourg on December 17.

The Sakharov Prize, named after Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, was first awarded in 1988. Former winners include Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Belarusian Association of Journalists.



Partners: Social Network