Tsvangirai, Dalai Lama, and Betancourt on Sakharov prize list

BRUSSELS – The Dalai Lama, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Franco-Colombian ex-hostage Ingrid Betancourt figure among the candidates for the EU parliament's 2008 Sakharov prize, the assembly said Wednesday.

The three were nominated along with five others for the parliament’s prestigious prize, which is awarded each year to defenders of human rights and democracy.

The other candidates are NGO European Roma Rights Centre, jailed Chinese pro-democracy campaigner Hu Jia, Belarussian political prisoner Alexandr Kozulin, Russian human rights activist Mikhail Trepashkin and Abbot Apollinaire Malu Malu, head the Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission.

The parliament’s foreign affairs committee will narrow down the list to three names on September 22 before the winner is choosen in mid-October and the prize presented in a Strasbourg plenary session on December 16.

The 2008 Sakharov Prize, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, marks the twentieth year it has been awarded and all previous winners will be invited to attend the presentation in December.

Among the previous winners are former South African leader Nelson Mandela, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ex-UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Eight names have been submitted by MEPs for this year’s European Parliament Sakharov Prize, which is awarded to defenders of human rights and democracy. The winner will be chosen in mid-October.

Candidates may be nominated by a political group or a minimum of 40 MEPs. This year’s nominees are (in alphabetical order):
 
Ingrid Betancourt – Former Colombian Presidential candidate and political prisoner (nominated by Martin Schulz on behalf of the PES Group)
 
Dalai Lama – Spiritual leader, defender of human rights in Tibet and leading proponent of inter-cultural dialogue (nominated by Cristiana Muscardini on behalf of the UEN group and Alojz Peterlé and 40 others)
 
European Roma Rights Centre – NGO defending the human rights of Roma people (nominated by the GUE/NGL group)
 
Hu Jia – Imprisoned Chinese campaigner on democracy, environmental issues and HIV/AIDS (nominated by Graham Watson on behalf of the ALDE group, Monica Frassoni and Daniel Cohn-Bendit on behalf of the Greens/EFA Group and 55 others)
 
Alexandr Kozulin – Belarussian political prisoner, leader of a civic initiative for freedom in his country (nominated by Jacek Protasiewicz, Jan Marinus Wiersma and 44 others)
 
Abbot Apollinaire Malu Malu – Chair of Independent Electoral Commission of Democratic Republic of Congo and leader of efforts to achieve a peaceful end to conflicts (nominated by Luisa Morgantini, Alain Hutchinson, Jürgen Schröder, Johan Van Hecke and 44 others)
 
Mikhail Trepashkin – Prominent dissident and human rights activist in Russia (nominated by Gerard Batten on behalf of the IND/DEM Group)
 
Morgan Tsvangirai – Leader of the MDC, democratic opposition in Zimbabwe (nominated by Luís Queiró and 96 others).
 
The nominations will be officially presented to a joint meeting of the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Development Committee and Human Rights Subcommittee on the morning of Tuesday 9 September. The next step takes place on 22 September, when the Foreign Affairs Committee will narrow down the number of candidates to a shortlist of three.  The Conference of Presidents will select the winner in mid-October and the prize will be awarded to the laureate at the Strasbourg plenary sitting of 17 December.
 
This year is the 20th anniversary of the Sakharov Prize. To mark the occasion, a special event to which all previous winners of the prize are to be invited will take place in Strasbourg on 16 December.