EU rights prize goes to jailed Uighur activist Ilham Tohti

BRUSSELS, Ella Joyner (dpa)- Incarcerated economist and Uighur rights advocate Ilham Tohti is this year's winner of the European Union's Sakharov prize, the president of the European Parliament announced on Thursday.
"He has dedicated his life to advocating for the rights of China's Uighur minority," David Sassoli said on Twitter, calling for Tohti's immediate release.

Ilham Tohti
Ilham Tohti

Before receiving a life sentence for separatism in 2014, Tohti had advocated for building bridges between China's Han majority and its persecuted Uighur ethnic minority.
He is one of many activists trying to draw attention to China's crackdown against ethnic minorities in its Xinjiang region, which has drawn international condemnation.
The Sakharov prize, which is awarded for contributions in the field of human rights and freedoms, was first handed out more than 30 years ago. It is worth 50,000 euros (55,600 dollars).
The winner is selected by the EU legislature's president and the leaders of all the parliamentary groups.
EU lawmakers drew up the shortlist for the prize earlier in October, throwing a spotlight on the cities and forests of Brazil, the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM), and the plight of the Uighur people.
The murdered Rio de Janeiro councillor Marielle Franco, who campaigned against racism and poverty, was one of the three Brazilians put forward, along with deforestation critic Claudelice Silva dos Santos, and indigenous leader and environmentalist Chief Raoni.
A group of five Kenyan students who developed an app called i-Cut to help those affected by female genital mutilation (FGM) were also shortlisted.
Last month, Tohti was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights prize by the Council of Europe, which is not an EU institution but acts as Europe's human rights watchdog.
Last year's Sakharov laureate was Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov, who was released from prison in Russia last month after serving a five-year sentence.
The prize ceremony for Tohti is to take place in the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg on December 18.

Saturday, October 26th 2019
Ella Joyner (dpa)

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