STRASBOURG: The European Parliament on Wednesday gave its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought — the EU’s top human rights award — to jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
The anti-corruption campaigner, who last year survived a poisoning attack he blames on the Kremlin, is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s best-known domestic opponent.
After returning to Russia in January from Germany, where he was treated for the attack, he was convicted on old embezzlement charges and is now imprisoned in a penal colony outside Moscow, but continues to needle Putin.
His winning the Sakharov Prize, backed by parliament’s main political groups, will further embitter ties between the Europe Union and Russia that have been at a low since the annexation of Crimea by Moscow in 2014.
Navalny “has shown great courage in his attempts to restore the freedom of choice to the Russian people,” said European Parliament vice president Heidi Hautala, announcing the prize.
“For many years he has fought for human rights and fundamental freedom in his country. This is costing his freedom and nearly his life,” she added in a plenary session in the French city of Strasbourg.
Navalny, 45, was nominated but passed over for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
His movement in Russia has been banned as “extremist” by the Kremlin and some of his allies have been forced to leave Russia under pressure from authorities.
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2021