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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Betancourt, Dalai Lama, lead Sakharov Prize list

September 16, 2008

15 September 2008 - Issue : 799


Ingrid Betancourt, the Dalai Lama and Zimbabwe's opposition leader are 
among the eight nominees for the prestigious Sakharov Prize, a yearly 
award given by the European Parliament to defenders of democracy and 
human rights around the world, setting up a contest between some of 
the world's most celebrated activists this year.

Betancourt, a one-time Colombian presidential candidate with French 
citizenship who was released in July after being held hostage for six 
years by FARC rebels, was nominated by parliament's Socialist group. 
"Betancourt has constantly spoken out and stood up to the forces of 
terrorism and its devastating effects against ordinary, innocent 
people both in Colombia and around the world," her nomination read. 
The spiritual and political leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, was 
chosen by the nationalist UEN group for his "message of peace, non- 
violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and 
compassion." Other nominations include the European Roma Rights 
Centre, Chinese civil rights activist Hu Jia, Russian lawyer and 
democracy campaigner Mikhail Ivanovich Trepashkin and Zimbabwean 
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The number of candidates will be 
narrowed down to a shortlist of three on September 22, with the winner 
due to be picked in mid- October.

This year's award marks the 20th anniversary of the Sakharov Prize, 
which was first awarded in 1988 in honour of the Soviet physicist and 
political dissident Andrei Sakharov. Other past winners incl - ude 
Nelson Mandela, 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, under 
house arrest in Burma; and Alexander Dubcek, a reformer of the Czech 
Communist party during the so-called Prague Spring of 1968. 
Betancourt, a Colombian-French politician and anti-corruption 
activist, was kidnapped by the FARC, while campaigning for the 
Colombian presidency, and rescued from captivity this July. According 
to the nomination, "Betancourt has constantly spoken out and stood up 
to the forces of terrorism and its devastating effects against 
ordinary, innocent people both in Colombia and around the world." The 
European Roma Rights Centre campaigns against anti-Romani racism and 
abuse. According to the nomination, "since its establishment in 1996, 
the ERRC has endeavoured to give Roma the tools necessary to combat 
discrimination and win equal access to government, education, 
employment, health care, housing and public services."

Hu Jia is a Chinese campaigner for civil rights, environmental 
protection and AIDS advocacy. Following his testimony on human rights 
in China in November of 2007, via a conference call, he was arrested, 
charged with "inciting subversion of state power" and sentenced to 
three-and-a-half years' in jail. Trepashkin was cited in his 
nomination for his work as an FSB (KGB) detective. "Trepashkin 
uncovered a number of cases where his colleagues from the secret 
services were involved in corruption, organised crime and terrorism." 
He was persecuted, then jailed for four years. Released in November 
2007 following an international campaign, he has since continued 
campaigning for human rights and democracy in Russia. Tsvangirai's 
nomination said he "has fought for democracy, freedom of speech and 
the rule of law in Zimbabwe. At enormous personal risk he has led the 
main opposition party and has courageously endured a succession of 
assassination attempts and politically motivated arrests."

Other nominees include: -Alexander Kozulin, a former presidential 
candidate in Belarus. According to the nomination, "Aleksandr Kozulin 
has shown great courage to withstand the regime's actions and to fight 
for freedom of thought and expression and basic civil rights. In 2006, 
during the presidential campaign, he was beaten several times, 
detained and finally sentenced to five and a half years of 
imprisonment." -Abbot Apollinaire Malu Malu - Chair of the Independent 
Electoral Commission of Democratic Republic of Congo. The nomination 
praises "his efforts in making dialogue prevail over violence during 
the Goma conference [aimed at bringing peace to the DRC provinces of 
North and South Kivu] and for dedicating his wisdom and experience to 
realising these principles throughout his career."
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