European Parliament nominates Pussy Riot for Sakharov Prize
BRUSSELS, October 10 - RAPSI. On Tuesday, the European Parliament's committees on foreign affairs and development decided on the finalists for the 2012 Sakharov Prize and included the Pussy Riot punk band members on the shortlist, the parliament's press service told RIA Novosti.
On February 21, five young women wearing brightly colored balaclavas stood at the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral and performed a protest song entitled, "Holy Sh*t." Shortly thereafter, an edited video of the performance was uploaded to the Internet and incited a public outcry.
Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were convicted of disorderly conduct on August 17 and sentenced to two years in prison.
The shortlist also includes Belarusian human rights activist Ales Belyatsky and two Iranian opposition figures.
The winner will be chosen by leaders of the parliament's political parties on October 26 and the award ceremony will be held in Strasbourg on December 12.
Also among the finalists are Joseph Francis of Pakistan, a victim of blasphemy law, and three Rwandan opposition activists.
Pussy Riot were nominated for the award by German MEP Werner Schulz, who represents the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, and is the vice chair of the delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee. 44 other MEPs supported the nomination. Meanwhile, head of the EU parliamentarian delegation Knut Fleckenstein has criticized his compatriot's decision.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded to individuals and organizations that have made a special contribution to the protection of human rights.
The nominees are proposed by European parliamentary groups. They must collect a minimum of 40 signatures to support their candidate. Nelson Mandela and Soviet dissident Anatoly Marchenko, who died in a Soviet prison in 1988, were the first to win the prize. In 2011, the prize was awarded to a group of Arab Spring activists. Prizewinners receive an award of 50,000 euros.
The Russian Foreign Ministry regards the idea to nominate Pussy Riot for the Sakharov Prize as an attempt to interfere with Russia's judicial system.
Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Konstantin Dolgov stressed that Moscow hopes the European Union will respect the memory of Andrei Sakharov, as well as the millions of Orthodox believers whose rights and feelings were infringed upon as a result of Pussy Riot's punk prayer.