Among this year's five nominees for one of the world's most prestigious human rights awards is the Arab Spring movement, represented by activists from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria. Other nominees include Palestinian doctor and peace activist Izzeldin Abuelaish, Belarusian journalist Dzimitry Bandarenko, writer and concentration camp survivor Boris Pahor and a community of Colombian peasants dedicated to peace and reconciliation. In alphabetical order they are:
Izzeldin Abuelaish: a Palestinian doctor and founder of the Daughters for Life Foundation is nominated by members of the European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR). He has dedicated his life to peace in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. He is referred to as a "magical, secret bridge" between the two peoples.
Arab Spring: nominated by four EP political groups in Parliament (EPP, S&D, ALDE, Greens) is represented by activists from across the Arab world. In the nomination statement, members write:
"The 'Arab Spring' is a symbol for all those willing dignity, democracy and fundamental rights in the Arab world. The award of the Sakharov Prize to the five nominees - Mohamed Bouazizi (Tunisia), Asmaa Mahfouz (Egypt), Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi (Libya), and Razan Zeitouneh and Ali Farzat (Syria) - who contribute to radical political changes in their respective countries would reaffirm the Parliament's solidarity and firm support for their struggle for freedom, democracy and the end of authoritarian regimes."
Dzmitry Bandarenka: nominated by members of the ECR group, Bandarenko is a Belarusian civil activist and member of the Belarusian Association of Journalists. He is one of the co-founders of the Charter'97 civil initiative for democratic change and co-ordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign that Belarus to join the EU.
Boris Pahor: a Slovene writer from Italy, he is known as a fighter for freedom of thought and a strong opponent of totalitarian regimes. He first gained prominence writing about his time in Nazi concentration camps. Writing in Slovene but living in his native town of Trieste, he is an advocate of minority rights and minority languages. Pahor was nominated by Milan Zver (EPP, Slovenia) and 51 other MEPs.
The San José de Apartadó Peace Community: nomination is supported by the Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left. They say: this "Colombian community of 'campesinos', peasant farmers, has become an internationally recognized symbol of courage, resilience and dedication to the high values of peace and justice, in an environment of brutality and destruction." In a country plagued by decades of civil war and conflict, this community rejects affiliation to any of the armed groups and demands freedom and liberty for normal people.
About the prize
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov. It has been awarded annually by the European Parliament since 1988 to individuals or organisations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy.
Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, last year's laureate, has been on hunger strike over several years to protest against censorship in Cuba. He ended his latest hunger strike in July 2011 after Cuban officials agreed to free political prisoners.
Former laureates include Nobel Prize laureates Nelson Mandela (1988), Aung Sang Suu Kyi (1990) and the UN, represented by Secretary General Kofi Annan (2003).
The winner will receive €50,000. Nominations come from a political group or at least 40 MEPs.
The short list of three finalists will be decided 20 October by the Foreign Affairs and Development Committees and the group leaders will choose this year's laureate on 27 October.. The prize will be awarded 14 December during a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.