Iranian dissidents win 2012 Sakharov prize

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STRASBOURG, France (AP) — Two Iranian dissidents — a lawyer and a film director — were awarded the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The European Parliament awarded the prize Friday to Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi. Martin Schulz, the president of the parliament, said it was "a message of solidarity and recognition to a woman and a man who have not been bowed by fear and intimidation."

Sotoudeh, a lawyer who represented imprisoned Iranian opposition activists following the disputed June 2009 presidential elections, is now in prison herself. Panahi's films are known for their humanist perspective on life in Iran, often focusing on the hardships of children, the poor and women. He won the Camera d'Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.

The other finalists for the prize were Ales Bialiatski, a human rights activist in prison in Belarus, and Pussy Riot, the punk rock group that has criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin. Two of the band's members are in prison.

Yekaterina Samutsevich, a member of Pussy Riot, said she was pleased that Panahi won the prize.

"It's very important for us that it went to someone who is in jail for their feminist views," she said. "That's essentially the same as what happened to us."

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