Sakharov prize for Iranian activists

The European Parliament has awarded its top human rights prize to two prominent Iranian activists.

In a move which is likely to anger authorities in Tehran, the Strasbourg assembly today bestowed its annual “Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought” on lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film-maker Jafar Panahi.

Ms Sotoudeh, a mother of two, is a human rights lawyer who represented several imprisoned Iranian opposition activists in the wake of the disputed 2009 presidential elections.

She was arrested in September 2010 on suspicion of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security and is currently serving a six-year jail sentence in solitary confinement.

She recently started a hunger strike in protest against the state's harassment of her family.

Mr Panahi, whose films are known for their humanist perspective on life in Iran, was charged with committing propaganda against the government in 2010, sentenced to six years in prison and banned from directing films for 20 years.

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