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Pussy Riot, Panahi, Beliatsky on final Sakharov short list

10 october 2012, 12:47
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tengrinews.kz stock photo
tengrinews.kz stock photo
Jailed members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, Iran's film-maker Jafar Panahi and rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Belarus dissident Ales Beliatsky were put on a final shortlist Tuesday for the European Parliament's Sakharov rights priz, AFP reports.

The winner of the 50,000-euro (70,000-dollar) award will be announced October 26 with the ceremony held December 12 in Strasbourg, a parliamentary committee announced.

Past winners include anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and former UN chief Kofi Annan.

All nominees for the prestigious award this year, except Panahi, are currently behind bars.

Panahi, nominated jointly with Sotoudeh who is serving an 11-year sentence, is free but faces a six-year sentence and had been banned from making more movies.

Last year his "This Is Not A Film" had to be smuggled out in a USB key inside a cake to be screened at the Cannes film festival.

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina were sentenced in August to two years in a labour camp for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after bursting into an Orthodox cathedral to stage protest songs against Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Their appeal is to be heard October 10.

Russia last month slammed European lawmakers for nominating the punk musicians for the prize, on the grounds it was interference with Russian government work.

"The initiative by a group of European Parliament deputies can be considered nothing but a crude attempt to interfere with the work of the independent branch of the Russian government and an endeavour to question a decision of the court that delivered its verdict in due process," the foreign ministry said.

Belarus activist Beliatsky, who headed the Vyasna (Spring) human rights organisation, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in a prison camp on tax evasion charges in November and his property confiscated.

Vyasna was instrumental through 2011 in gathering funds to help activists and politicians jailed in the crackdown after the December 2010 presidential election and the mass protest that followed.

It had been banned by Belarussian authorities and operated out of Lithuania and Poland, where it held its bank accounts. Beliatsky's conviction was made possible after the two countries handed over his bank information to Minsk.

The case was condemned by the European Union, further isolating the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet country for the past 18 years.

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