The European Union has awarded this year's Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought to two Iranian dissidents, a lawyer and a filmmaker. The lawyer, Sasrin Sotoudeh is in prison, and the filmmaker, Jafar Panahi is under house arrest.
45-year old lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is serving a six year jail term at Evin prison for defending opposition activists as well as women and young people, BBC News reports. Officially, Sotoudeh is in prison for "acting against national security and "propaganda against the regime."
She is currently being held in solitary confinement and recently went on a hunger strike in protest of the harassment and poor treatment against her husband and two children by Iranian authorities.
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Iran has urged authorities to release, or at the very least, to consider releasing Sotoudeh from prison, Reuters reports.
Filmmaker Jafar Panahi was put under house arrest in 2010, and banned from making films for 20 years. Pahani is famous for making humanist films based on life in Iran. His 2011 documentary, This Is Not A Film was smuggled out of Iran when someone downloaded it onto a USB stick and then hid it inside a cake, BBC News reports.
Panahi has received numerous awards for his films, including the Golden Lion at the 2000 Venice FIlm Festival for The Circle, the International Business Times reports.
Panahi was also the winner of the 2011 Cannes Film festival's Carosse d'or for his documentary, This Is Not A Film. He was unable to attend the festival as he had already been put under house arrest by Iranian authorities.
He also won the Camera d'or in 1995 for The White Balloon.
The Sakharov award was created in 1988 in honor of Soviet scientist and dissident Andre Sakharov, Reuters reports. The EU has awarded the prize annually ever since. The first recipients were Nelson Mandela and Russian author and dissident Anatoly Marchenko.
The prize is awarded to people brave enough to defend human rights and the freedom of thought and expression, BBC News reports.
This year's winners received received 50,000 euros ($65,000) for speaking out against the oppression in Iran, the International Business Times reports.
The other nominees for this year's Sakharov prize were Russian Punk Band Pussy Riot and a civil rights activist from Belarus, BBC News reports
According to The Jerusalem Post, Iran had planned to welcome a European Parliament's delegation for a visit, but after hearing this year's Sakharov prize had been awarded to two Iranian dissidents, and learning the delegation actually wanted to meet with Jafar Panahi and Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran decided to cancel those plans, and not welcome the delegation after all. The visit had been planned for October 27 through November 2.
The delegation had planned to visit Sotoudeh and Panahi in order to give them their prize, but Iran would not accept this condition according to Hossein Sheikholeslam, affairs advisor, Iran's Mehr news agency reports.