press release

Human Rights Commissioner on the Sakharov Prize: the right choice

The European Parliament has decided to award this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi.

Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning issued the following statement on the subject today (26 October):

“The European Parliament has made the right choice.

Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi are exceptional individuals. They are paying a high personal price for their work defending human rights and civil liberties in Iran. For this, they deserve our utmost respect and recognition.

The persecution of human rights activists in Iran absolutely must end. I am also deeply concerned at reports that Ms Sotoudeh’s hunger strike has left her in poor physical condition.

I call on the Iranian judiciary to release Ms Sotoudeh and all other political prisoners immediately. I appeal for an end to politically motivated trials and intimidation targeting activists and their families, and I call for the ruling against Mr Panahi to be overturned.

I hope that the Iranian Government will permit the two prizewinners to travel to Strasbourg for the award ceremony on 12 December, so that they can receive their prize in person.”

Nasrin Sotoudeh is one of Iran’s best-known human rights lawyers and a close colleague of Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. On 8 January 2011, she was sentenced to eleven years in jail and banned from practising law for 20 years. According to unconfirmed news reports of 15 September 2011, a court of appeal has reduced her prison sentence to six years and her ban to ten. Ms Sotoudeh’s family has also been put under pressure, one instance being the travel ban imposed on her daughter and husband in July 2012. Visiting rights are severely restricted as well. Opposition sources report that Ms Sotoudeh has been on hunger strike since 17 October, with the result that she is in very poor health.
Jafar Panahi is one of Iran’s most internationally renowned film-makers. On 20 December 2010, he was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from working in film for 20 years, for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”. A court of appeal in Tehran confirmed the ruling against Mr Panahi in early October 2011. The sentence has not yet been put into effect, however; Mr Panahi is currently not in jail. Jafar Panahi has won a large number of international film awards, including the Silver Bear at the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival. He was selected as a member of the jury for the same festival in 2011 but was refused an exit visa and so was unable to attend.

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