Two empty chairs to symbolise the two award winners who were unable to attend. Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film director Jafar Panahi won this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for defending human rights in their native Iran. However, they were unable pick up their award in person at the ceremony in the Parliament on 12 December. The two laureates designated five representatives to receive the prize on their behalf.
EP president Martin Schulz said during the ceremony: “The situation in Iran is critical. The root of the problems suffered by this proud people is a fanatical regime. There is no accountability in this country: every day, people are imprisoned for saying their opinion. The representatives of the European people considered this to be unfair. The Iranian regime should know that this institution stands on the side of the repressed.”
The five people designated to represent this year’s winners are:
- Shirin Ebadi (Nobel Peace Laureate)
- Karim Lahidji (founder of the Iranian Association of Jurists and of the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran)
- Solmaz Panahi (Jafar Panahi’s daughter)
- Costa Gavras (president of the Cinémathèque Française)
- Serge Toubiana (director general of the Cinémathèque Française)