2009-10-22 14:48:22

EU parliament awards prize to Russian rights group

(October 22, 2009) The European Parliament on Thursday awarded its annual Sakharov prize for freedom of thought to Russian human rights group ‘Memorial’, which is battling to uncover the truth about the murder of one of its activists from Chechnya. ‘Memorial’ was ordered on Oct. 6 by a Moscow court to retract its accusation that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov was responsible for the kidnap and killing of Natalia Estemirova. The human rights organisation is appealing the decision. The EU prize is named for the physicist Andrei Sakharov, a Soviet dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 and was the head of ‘Memorial’ in the late 1980s. The annual prize is worth 50,000 euros. Estemirova was kidnapped in Chechnya and found dead in neighbouring Ingushetia on July 15. Memorial's lawyers argued in court that Kadyrov had created a climate of fear in Chechnya and threatened to kill his enemies, including rights workers. But they did not present direct evidence of any involvement by Kadyrov in the murder. Opponents accuse Kadyrov of massive rights violations in Chechnya, the scene of two separatist wars with Russia in the 1990s, and of tolerating no independent voices in the region.

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