AJC Applauds Awarding of Sakharov Prize to Iranian Activists

October 26, 2012 – Brussels – AJC applauds the European Parliament for awarding the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to two Iranians--lawyer and human rights advocate Nasrin Sotoudeh and filmmaker Jafar Panahi.

“This is the first time that Iranian citizens have won this prestigious award," said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of AJC’s Transatlantic Institute. "Unfortunately, the world usually does not pay sufficient attention to the horrendous crimes committed by the Iranian regime against its own people and the tremendous courage of those Iranians fighting for human rights and freedom.”

Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 for spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. She is currently incarcerated in the notorious Evin prison in solitary confinement, and also has been disbarred and banned for ten years from leaving the country.

Panahi was arrested in March 2010, along with his wife, daughter and 15 friends, and was later charged with spreading propaganda against the Iranian government. He faces a six-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban on directing movies, writing screenplays, giving interviews and leaving the country.

“With this award, the European Parliament is sending a powerful message of support not only to those two brave individuals but to thousands of victims of this regime, who have been executed, raped and locked up in Iranian prisons,” Schwammenthal said. “Regrettably, the decision of a small group of European Parliamentarians to visit Iran to meet with regime officials stands to significantly undermine the impact of the Sakharov Prize for the human rights movement in Iran.”

A delegation led by the Tarja Cronberg (Greens/EFA, Finland), Chair of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iran, and accompanied by Cornelia Ernst (GUE, Germany), Joseph Weidenholzer (S&D, Austria), Isabelle Durant (Greens/EFA, Belgium) and Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar (S&D, Spain), is scheduled to travel to Iran tomorrow.

Included on a draft agenda are meetings with Sadegh Larijani, head of Iran’s Judiciary, who was sanctioned by the EU in March for his role in human rights violations and abuse of the justice system to persecute Iranians. The delegation is also scheduled to meet Mohammad Javad Larijani, who leads Iran’s Human Rights Council and plays a significant role in the legal crackdown on Iranians.

“It seems unthinkable that Ms. Cronberg and her colleagues will be meeting with the very regime members responsible for punishing Ms. Sotoudeh and Mr. Panahi and countless of their compatriots,” said Schwammenthal. “How is that appropriate or helpful?”

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