A jailed Iranian human rights lawyer and a Belarusian activist were honoured on Thursday with an award often called “the alternative Nobel prize.”
The Stockholm-based foundation, which awards the Right Livelihood Award, said it was “shocked at the news” that Iranian authorities on the eve of the ceremony had ordered Nasrin Sotoudeh back to prison, where she is serving a more than 30-year sentence.
“As she went back to prison yesterday there was not a quiver in her voice,” foundation director Ole von Uexkull said at the ceremony.
Sotoudeh, the first Iranian to receive the award, was temporarily released on 7 November and had contracted COVID-19 while in prison, the foundation said.
In a rare recorded statement played at the ceremony streamed from Stockholm’s Eric Ericson Hall, Soutodeh noted that “during the years when I was imprisoned solely on account of carrying out my professional duties, I have benefitted from the support of the public and foundations such as yours.”
She underlined the need to be aware of “the plight of all the political prisoners in Iran” and called for their release.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde presented the award to Sotoudeh, saying it was “in recognition of your fearless activism to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms in Iran at great personal risk.”
Sotoudeh’s clients include Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who in a recorded video message recalled how she had encouraged her to study law. Ebadi also called for Sotoudeh’s release.