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Octobre 22, 2009

The leaders of Parliament`s political groups today reached consensus on the 2009 winner of the Sakharov prize for human rights and freedom of thought.

The 'Memorial` organisation founded in the 1980s in Russia by Andrei Sakharov himself represents the courageous efforts of a number of individuals (Oleg Orlov, Sergei Kovalev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva) in the defence of human rights in the post-Soviet states. Originally conceived as a memorial to the victims of Stalinist repression, it has latterly become a civil rights defence organisation in the region.

Leonidas Donskis (LCU, Lithuania) who had defended the candidature of Memorial for this year`s prize expressed his satisfaction at the outcome:
"This sends a powerful message to Russia where human rights defenders and dissenting journalists are being increasingly targeted and assassinated. I am personally delighted by Parliament`s decision to grant the award to Memorial which is highly significant this year, on the 20th anniversary of Sakharov`s death."

This year saw a number of excellent candidates to receive the prize from worthy organisations to individuals suffering for their defence of democracy or their efforts to bring assistance to those being persecuted.

On a proposal from ALDE group leader, Guy Verhofstadt, one of the short-listed runners-up (Dawit Isaak, a Swedish journalist and writer of Eritrean origin, imprisoned without trial since 2001 for demanding democratic reforms in Eritrea) was singled out as also worthy of support from the European Parliament. The Conference of Presidents will decide, at its next meeting, on specific measures to take to bring pressure for the early release of Mr Isaak and his fellow political prisoners.

Olle Schmidt (Folkpartiet, Sweden), who had proposed Mr Isaak for the Sakharov prize, welcomed the initiative:
"Every year there are many worthy candidates for this prestigious award that has enormous political and symbolic value. It is not possible to award it to everyone, but the process of nomination brings to light important cases of human rights abuses around the world."

"Parliament is growing in stature and responsibility if it shows its determination to stand up for individual cases around the world like Mr. Isaak, who are prepared to put their lives at risk to shine a light on the darker spots around the world where democratic values are most ignored and under threat."

www.alde.eu



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