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Julian Assange and Volodymyr Zelensky nominated for prestigious award

Julian Assange and Volodymyr Zelensky are nominated for prestigious EU Freedom of Thought award – given for the first time in 1988 to Nelson Mandela

  • Julian Assange has been nominated for a prestigious human rights award
  • Up against Ukrainian President Zelensky and Brazilian activist Sônia Guajajara
  • Late Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is also nominated
  • Award recognises person who dedicated their lives to defence of human rights 
  • The Sakharov Prize was awarded for the first time in 1988 to Nelson Mandela 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are among seven nominees for a prestigious EU human rights award.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is an honorary prize awarded to an individual or group who has dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights.

Fellow nominees for the 2022 prize are the people of Ukraine, the Truth Commission in Colombia, Brazilian activist Sônia Guajajara and the late Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot and killed on the job in May 2022. 

In 2021, the prize was awarded to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny for his efforts against corruption and the Kremlin’s human rights abuses.

Mr Assange’s wife Stella, speaking from Brussels where the nominees were announced, said: ‘Julian’s nomination is testament to the support he has from human rights groups around the world as well as the respect he has for his work.’ 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (pictured) has been nominated for The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

The WikiLeaks founder is being detained in London’s Belmarsh prison fighting a lengthy legal battle to avoid extradition to the United States – where he faces up to 175 years on espionage charges.

In April 2010, WikiLeaks began publishing documents supplied by a U.S. Army intelligence analyst which included Afghanistan war logs and Guantánamo Bay files. 

He has won support from human rights organisations, activists and media outlets around the world for his investigations. 

Mrs Assange revealed on Monday her husband has tested positive for Covid and faces days being isolated in his prison cell. 

Sabrina Pignedoli and 40 other EU lawmakers came together to nominate Mr Assange for his work. He stands to win €50,000 in prize money if chosen.

But Mr Assange faces stiff competition for the prize.

The people of Ukraine have received three separate nominations for their courage in the face of unprovoked Russian aggression.

One nomination is for President Zelensky personally for ‘his bravery, endurance and devotion to his people and to European values’.

A separate nomination is dedicated to State Emergency Services of Ukraine; Yulia Pajevska, founder of the evacuation medical unit Angels of Taira; human rights activist Oleksandra Matviychuk; the Yellow Ribbon Civil Resistance Movement; and Ivan Fedorov, the former mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol.

Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist for Al Jazeera who was shot dead while covering a raid by the Israel Defence Forces on the Jenin refugee camp, has also received a posthumous nomination.

Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist for Al Jazeera who was shot dead while covering a raid by the Israel Defence Forces on the Jenin refugee camp, has also received a posthumous nomination

She was one of the most prominent reporters in the Arab-speaking world and worked for the organisation for 25 years, primarily covering the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Ms Abu Akleh was shot dead on the job while wearing a press vest in a tragedy which sparked widespread condemnation. 

Brazilian environmental and Indigenous activist Sônia Guajajara has also received a nod for her work.

Ms Guajajara is calling for the protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples to control their land.

The Sakharov Prize was awarded for the first time in 1988 to Nelson Mandela and Anatoli Marchenko. 

It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov.

The top three finalists will be announced on October 13 followed by an award ceremony in Strasbourg on December 14, where the winner will be announced.

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