Human rights prize to be awarded to democratic opposition in Belarus

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Oct. 22 (UPI) — The European Parliament announced Thursday that the Sakharov Prize for human rights and freedom of thought will be awarded to the democratic opposition in Belarus in December.

The Belarus opposition has organized peaceful mass protests to fight for democracy following allegations of widespread fraud in the presidential election in August, according to the European Parliament.

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Protesters took to the streets after Aug. 9 polls showed that the authoritarian incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko had won a sixth term with nearly 80% of the vote against his main challenger, opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Ten days after the election, the European Council, the ruling body of the European Union, said it didn’t recognize the results of the presidential election because it determined it was “neither free nor fair.”

The Lukashenko regime “responded with an unprecedented level of violence and repression, but Belarusian society did not give up and has continued to protest, even after many of the opposition leaders have been imprisoned or exiled,” the European Parliament said in a statement.

Belarus opposition representatives will be awarded the Sakharov Prize, consisting of a certificate and monetary award of 50,000 euros, on Dec. 16, during the plenary session of the European Parliament.

Tsikhanouskaya “has become the emblem of this peaceful Belarusian revolution,” according to profile of the 2020 Sakharov Prize laureate. She created the Coordination Council to facilitate the democratic transfer of power, which the profile said was an “initiative of brave women.”

Other Coordination Council representatives, who have “become the symbol of the opposition and offered hope to Belarusians,” according to the profile, will also be awarded the human rights prize, including Svetlana Alexievich, Maryia Kalesnikava, Volha Kavalkova and Veranika Tsapkala.

Representatives who have supported the women, including other political activists, human rights defenders, oppositions politicians and youth leaders, will also receive the prize, including Siarhei Tsikhanouski, Ales Bialiatski, Siarhei Dyleuski, Stsiapan Putsila and Mikola Statkevich.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, more commonly known as the Sakharov Prize, is named after Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and activist for disarmament, peace and human rights, Nobel Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989). The prize honors individuals and groups who have dedicated their lives to the human rights and made contributions to freedom of thought.

It was awarded for the first time in 1988 to South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) and soviet dissident and author Anatoli Marchenko (1938-1986). Last year’s winner was Uygur economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority Ilham Toti.

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