The Dalai Lama has been chosen of one of eight nominees for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, awarded by the European Parliament to honour individuals or organizations who have dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights. Previous winners of the Prize, named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, include Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.

Chinese campaigner Hu Jia, who is currently in prison following his campaigning work for environmental issues and to help people with HIV/AIDS,is also nominated for the award. European Parliamentarians say that Hu Jia,a leading activist who called for greater attention to human rights issues around the Olympics, was nominated on behalf of the silenced voices of China and Tibet. MEPs say that “He represents all the other Chinese citizens who are repressed: lawyers, journalists, petitioners, human rights activist, writers and cyber-dissidents”. Some Tibetans are part of the list of prisoners included in Hu Jia’s candidature: Dolma Kyab, Jigme Gyatso,Jigme Tenzin Nyima, Runggye Adak, Tashi Gyatso, and Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche.

The winner of the Prize will be selected mid-October and it will be awardedat the Strasbourg plenary sitting of the Parliament on December 17.

Vincent Metten, ICT’s Executive Director in Brussels added: “The nomination of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for this important award is a further demonstration of the European Parliament’s active and concrete support to the Dalai Lama and to his non-violent and middle-way approach. It also sends a strong message to Beijing that the Dalai Lama must be involved now in a resolution of the Tibet crisis”.

Eva Lichtenberger of the Green group, vice-chairwoman of the Tibet Intergroup of the European Parliament said: “Now that the Games are over, the European Union must be vigilant on Tibet. There are serious fears of further reprisals on Tibetans now that the global international focus on China has shifted after the Olympics. As a matter of urgency, we urge the Chinese authorities to end the violent crackdown, release those who have been detained after peaceful protest, and allow free access for independent observers to the Tibetan plateau.”

The other nominees for the 2008 prize are: Ingrid Betancourt (the former Colombian Presidential candidate and former political prisoner), the European Roma Rights Centre (an NGO defending the human rights of Romapeople), Alexandr Kozulin (a Belarussian political prisoner), Abbot Apollinaire Malu Malu (Chair of Independent Electoral Commission of Democratic Republic of Congo), Mikhail Trepashkin (dissident and human rights activist in Russia) and Morgan Tsvangirai (Leader of the MDC,democratic opposition in Zimbabwe).

For information on the Sakharov Prize see: