Russia's EU Representative sees choice of Sakharov Prize winners as victory of common sense

The European Parliament decision to award the Sakharov Prize to filmmaker Jafar Panahi and human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh of Iran is a victory of common sense, Russian Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov told Interfax.

"Common sense has won," he said.

Chairmen of European Parliament political groups unanimously chose the winners on Friday.

Apart from the Iranian candidates, the nominees included Belarusian Vyasna human rights center chairman Ales Belyatsky and Russian punk band musicians Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich.

After the Pussy Riot band was added to the shortlist of Sakharov Prize nominees, Chizhov told Interfax, "I am ashamed that Andrei Dmitriyevich Sakharov has been mentioned in this context. Judging by my impression of him (although we were not acquainted), I think he would have been categorically against such linking of his name. As far as I know, his family and even the Memorial society have the same idea."

The Sakharov Prize was established in 1988 to commemorate Soviet and Russian human rights defender, Academician Andrei Sakharov. The European Parliament awards this prize to individuals or collectives fighting for human rights and fundamental freedoms worldwide.

The 50,000-euro Sakharov Prize is awarded in the first half of December at a plenary meeting of the European Parliament during celebrations of the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly in 1948. Frequently laureates do not attend the ceremony: they could be either imprisoned or unable to travel outside of thir home country.

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