Belarus opposition leader awarded top EU human rights prize News
Belarus opposition leader awarded top EU human rights prize

[JURIST] Alexander Milinkevich [campaign website; Wikipedia profile], the defeated opposition candidate in Belarus' presidential elections in March, was awarded the Sakharov Prize [press release] on Thursday by the European Parliament [official website], for his fight for democracy. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile] won over Milinkevich by a landslide 80 percent of the popular vote in an election that has been widely condemned as fraudulent [JURIST report] by election observers and Western governments. Milinkevich was among the hundreds of activists that have since been arrested [JURIST reports] for protesting against Lukashenko's win. Milinkevich will be awarded the Sakharov Prize during a formal plenary session of Parliament on December 13.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought [EU backgrounder], awarded each year by the European Parliament, was set up in 1988 to honor individuals or organizations for their efforts on behalf of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Named after Russian physicist Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov [autobiographical profile], who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 and is called the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, the award is given to "exceptional individuals or organizations fighting against oppression, intolerance and injustice." Past winners have included UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [official profile], Nelson Mandela [Nobel Peace Prize profile] and Oswaldo Jose Paya Sardinas [Wikipedia profile], one of Cuba's most prominent dissidents. AP has more.