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Iranian rights focus of Sakharov ceremony

Dec. 12, 2012 at 11:00 AM

STRASBOURG, France, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Governments have no choice but to respect individual rights if they are to have any sense of legitimacy, a statement from an Iranian rights defender said.

European President Martin Schulz observed a ceremony Wednesday to award the Sakharov Prize for human rights to Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film director Jafar Panahi.

"We, in the European Parliament, fully support our laureates' cry for justice and freedom in Iran and for respect for basic rights and freedoms," Schulz said in a statement. "We are honoring these people who are standing up for a better Iran."

Sotoudeh and Jafar remain jailed in Iran for their advocacy campaigns. Members of the European Parliament in October canceled a trip to Iran after the government there refused to let them meet the jailed dissidents.

Sotoudeh, in a message delivered by her representative, said juridical independence was a primary desire.

"Governments should know that in order to maintain their existence, they have no choice but to observe the rights of every individual," her message read.

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