Friday, October 26, 2012

European Sakharov Awards for two Iranian dissidents

Nasrin Sotoudeh
The European Union's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded on Friday to two Iranian activists, filmmaker Jafar Panahi and rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
 Nasrin Sotoudeh is a prominent human rights lawyer who has represented imprisoned Iranian opposition activists and politicians following the disputed June 2009 Iranian presidential elections as well as prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors. Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. In January 2011 she was sentenced to 11 years in prison in addition to barring her from practicing law and from leaving the country for 20 years. 

Jafar Panahi is an Iranian film director, screenwriter and film editor of Azerbaijani descent, most commonly associated with the Iranian New Wave film movement Panahi first achieved international recognition with his debut The White Balloon which won the Caméra d'Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. It was the first major award won by an Iranian film at Cannes. Other awards include the Golden Leopard at the 1997 Locarno International Film Festival for The Mirror, the Golden Lion at the 2000 Venice Film Festival for The Circle and the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival for Offside.
Iranian director Jafar Panahi is seen with the Silver Bear he won for his film Offside at the 56th Berlin International Film Festival ceremony in 2006. He has been sentenced to jail once again by Iranian authorities.
Panahi with Silver Bear, Berlin 2006
Panahi was arrested in March 2010 and charged with committing propaganda against the Iranian government. In December 2010 he was sentenced to a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban on directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media and from leaving the country. This led to Panahi's last film to date: This Is Not a Film, a documentary feature in the form of a video diary that was made despite of the legal ramifications of Panahi's arrest. It was smuggled out of Iran in a Flash-Drive hidden inside a cake and was screened at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

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