The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2012 goes to Iranians Nasrin Sotoudeh, an imprisoned human rights defender and lawyer, and Jafar Panahi, a film director who with his work called attention to the hardships suffered by Iran's poor. EP president Martin Schulz presented the award to representatives of the laureates in plenary on 12 December.
Nominations come from a political group or at least 40 MEPs. The foreign affairs and development committees decided on the three finalists on 9 October and from these three political group leaders chose this year's laureate on 26 October.
The prize was awarded on 12 December during a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The winners will receive €50,000.
In 2011, the prize went to five representatives of the Arab Spring, in recognition and support of their drive for freedom and human rights.
Former winners include Nobel Prize laureates Nelson Mandela (1988), Aung Sang Suu Kyi (1990) and the UN, represented by Secretary General Kofi Annan (2003).
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought honours exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression to defend human rights and freedom of expression. It is named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and 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.