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28/10/2011 This year’s Sakharov Prize awards five people involved in the Arab revolutions

The hotly-anticipated result of the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2011 was announced this morning by the European Parliament and will be awarded to five people who played a part in the Arab Spring.

So, it was not one but five people who were today rewarded for their action in the area of defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Among the winners was Tunisian protester Mohamed Bouazizi (honoured posthumously) who set himself alight on December 17th 2010 leading to a wave of popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. His actions, which caused his death two weeks later, were a means of denouncing the living conditions in Tunisia as well as corruption and brutality by the authorities.

The Egyptian militant Asmaa Mahfouz is founder of the April 6th Youth Movement; she called on people to gather at Tahrir Square in Cairo which led to the fall of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. Libyan dissident Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi, aged 77, spent 31 years in prison for opposing Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Syrian lawyer Razan Zeitouneh, aged 34, is one of the leaders of the organising committees in the Syrian revolt. Lastly, political cartoonist Ali Farzat, who had his hands broken in an attack last August by Syrian security forces.

Their nomination was jointly presented by the People’s Party, the Socialists, the Liberals and Democrats and the Greens in the European Parliament so it was expected they would win.

The five Arab militants were chosen over two other finalists whose names were also announced last week. This first, Dzmitry Bandarenka is a Belorussian civil rights activist and the second is the Colombian farming community, San José de Apartado.

Last year, the Sakharov Prize was awarded to Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas who led several hunger strikes to protest against Havana’s communist regime. The Cuban authorities did not allow him to travel to Strasbourg to receive his prize in December 2010.

The Sakharov Prize started in 1988 and is funded to the tune of €50,000. It will be presented at a ceremony in Strasbourg on December 14th.

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