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Iran pressed to release EU prize winners

Nov. 1, 2012 at 10:22 AM

GENEVA, Switzerland, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Rights experts with the United Nations called on Iranian authorities to release two dissidents who were awarded for their work last week by the European Union.

The European last week awarded Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film director Jafar Panahi the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Both leaders remain jailed in Iran for their advocacy campaigns.

Ahmed Shaheed, a U.N. special envoy on human rights in Iran, said he was "particularly concerned" about Sotoudeh's health. She began a hunger strike Oct. 17 in response to her prison conditions.

"The imprisonment of Ms. Sotoudeh and Mr. Panahi appears to be directly linked to their work in the defense of human rights, in clear violation of international human rights standards," Margaret Sekaggya, U.N. special envoy on human rights defenders, said in a statement.

Members of the European Parliament in October canceled a trip to Iran after the government there refused to let them meet the jailed dissidents.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer living in London, joined Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other rights organizations in calling for the release of the Sakharov Prize recipients.

"None of these people should be in prison in the first place," Ebadi said.

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