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Sakharov Prize 2009 finalists chosen

October 12, 2009

Palestinian gynaecologist Izzeldin Abuelaish, Swedish-Eritrean journalist and political prisoner Dawit Isaak and Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Oleg Orlov and Sergei Kovalev on behalf of Memorial and all other human rights defenders in Russia are the three finalists for this year's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, the European Parliament's award for human rights and democracy campaigners. The winner will be chosen 22 October.

The three were chosen on Tuesday evening at a joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Development Committees from a list of 10 candidates put forward by MEPs. Read more about them below (they are in alphabetical order):

Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish – A Palestinian obstetrician in Gaza who treats Israelis and Palestinians. In January 2009, during an Israeli raid on Gaza, a shell hit his appartment killing his three daughters. In memory of his daughters, Dr Abuelaish plans to set up an international foundation to help improve education for women and girls in Gaza and throughout the world. In spite of this personal family tragedy, Doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish continues to fight for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and to build bridges between the two war-torn, violence-ridden communities.

Dawit Isaak – This Swedish journalist, writer and playwright of Eritrean origin has been a political prisoner since 2001. Dawit Isaak, along with nine other leading journalists from the free press and 15 politicians demanding democratic reforms and a thorough, objective evaluation of the events leading to Eritrea's war with Ethiopia, were arrested as traitors. The journalists have also been accused of receiving financial aid from abroad – a crime according to Eritrean press laws. In a parliamentary resolution in January, the European Parliament expressed its "deep concern at the continuing imprisonment of Dawit Isaak, who has been in jail since his arrest in September 2001, without having been tried by a court of law" and demanded his immediate release.

MEMORIAL (Oleg Orlov, Sergei Kovalev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva on behalf of MEMORIAL and all other human rights defenders in Russia). The Memorial organisation, whose first leader was Andrei Sakharov, seeks to promote fundamental rights in post-Soviet states including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Tajikistan, Moldova and Ukraine.

It was originally founded to create a memorial complex to victims of Stalinist repressions in the late 1980s. It later expanded into a civil rights defence organisation. The nomination says, "Memorial promotes the truth about the political repression of the Soviet Union and fights against current human rights abuses in post-Soviet states to ensure their democratic future."

Winner to be chosen in October

Parliament's political group leaders will select the winner on 22 October and the prize will be awarded to the laureate in Strasbourg on 16 December. The winner will also receive €50,000.

The Sakharov Prize

Since 1988, in the spirit of renowned physicist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, the European Parliament has awarded the annual Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to individuals or organisations who work for human rights and fundamental freedoms and against oppression and injustice. This year's award coincides with the 20th anniversary of Andrei Sakharov's death.

For more information contact:
European Parliament
Phone: 111-111-1111

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