© Reuters. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a hearing to consider an appeal against an earlier court decision to change his suspended sentence to a real prison term, in Moscow, Russia February 20, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was nominated on Monday for the European Parliament’s annual human rights prize as European Union lawmakers sought to keep the public spotlight on his pro-democracy network, which has been banned in Russia.
Navalny, 45, who was poisoned in August 2020 by what Western nations said was a nerve agent, is serving a 2-1/2-year sentence for parole violations he calls trumped up. The EU has imposed sanctions on Russian officials over Navalny’s poisoning and imprisonment.
Moscow denies any wrongdoing and accuses the EU of interfering in its domestic affairs.
“It is vital that we in the European Parliament confirm our relentless support for Navalny and stress that his wellbeing is the responsibility of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” Peter van Dalen, a Dutch centre-right EU lawmaker, told an assembly meeting.
The 50,000 euro ($59,000) Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded every year. The winner will be announced on Oct. 21, with a prize-giving in December.
Past laureates include South African president Nelson Mandela, Venezuela’s democratic opposition and Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai.
Other 2021 nominees include a group of prominent Afghan women, Bolivian politician Jeanine Anez and British-based human rights non-governmental organisation Global Witness.
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