26 September 2012, 10:06
Russian public figures rap Pussy Riot members' Sakharov Prize nomination
Moscow, September 26, Interfax - Russian public figures have condemned the nomination of the three convicted members of the Pussy Riot punk band for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, an award for the defense of human rights and basic freedoms and championship of law instituted by the European Parliament in 1988.
"It undoubtedly means devaluing the prize. I think that Andrey Dmitriyevich [Sakharov] would, of course, advocated clemency for these girls but he would hardly have been prepared to have his name linked to them," journalist and political analyst Ilya Peresedov told Interfax.
Irina Pleshchyova, a member of the Russian Public Chamber, argued that Pussy Riot performers Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich could not be put on a par with, for example, Nelson Mandela, who was the first winner of the prize in 1988 after spending 27 years in jail.
"I think that Academician Sakharov would hardly have survived such a nomination. It's a mockery of Sakharov himself and the people who really deserved that prize," Pleshchyova said.
The three musicians' nomination had been proposed by Werner Schulz, a member of the European Parliament's Greens/European Free Alliance group. Schulz collected 40 signatures from fellow European Union lawmakers that were needed for putting Pussy Riot on the nominations list.
Knut Flechkenstein, chair of the European Parliament's delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee and a member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EU legislature, slammed Schulz's initiative.
He described it as an insult to all previous winners of the prize. He mentioned Mandela, members of Argentine movement Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and members of Russian human rights group Memorial among them.
The nominees, who include rights activists from Rwanda and Iran, are due to have been shortlisted on Tuesday.
Last year's winners were "Arab Spring" activists.