Iran slams Sakharov prize honors as ‘political’

Iran on Sunday slammed the European Parliament for its "political" selection of two Iranian rights activists jailed in the Islamic republic for its prestigious Sakharov prize.

"Unfortunately the European Union and its organizations have a selective look towards the issue of human rights, which has become a tool" used against other countries, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast said in a statement reported by the ISNA news agency.

The European Parliament, he said, was seeking "political objectives" in awarding the Sakharov prize to lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film-maker Jafar Panahi on 12 December in Strasbourg.

Mehmanparast advised the Europeans to tackle "numerous instances that human rights is violated in Europe, rather than awarding a prize with political objectives.”

The instances, he went on to say, include "the unpleasant situation of immigrants and refugees, discrimination against Muslims and repressing the rightful economic and social demands of European citizens.”

Neither Panahi, currently under house arrest, nor Sotoudeh, who was put behind bars in August 2010, were able to collect the 50,000 euro (US$65,000) prize.

Sotoudeh, a 47-year-old mother of two, is a leading rights campaigner known for representing opposition activists and juveniles facing the death penalty.

She is currently sentenced to 11 years and is banned from practicing law for conspiring against state security.

Panahi, 52, has been repeatedly acclaimed at major international film festivals for gritty and socially critical movies that are banned in Iran.

Arrested for a documentary he tried to make on the unrest following the disputed 2009 presidential election, Panahi is banned from making films for 20 years. He is sentenced to jail for six years but remains detained at home for the moment.

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