Today, November 26, European Parliament awarded Deniz Mukwege 59, with this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Speaking in Strasbourg at the ceremony, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said Mukwege “fought for the dignity of women, justice and peace in his country”.
In his introductory remarks President Schulz mentioned two other short-listed candidates for the prize – Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus and the Ukrainian movement of Euromaidan.
To the representative of Euromaidan, President Schulz said, "You, Mrs. [Ielyzaveta] Shchepetylnykova (eds: representative of Euromaidan) and your colleagues and friends have demonstrated enormous courage and, even though your lives were at risk, you fought for a good future of your country. You took to the streets so that you can live in a free and democratic Ukraine and we can assure you of our full support and solidarity."
"Mrs. [Leyla] Yunus has been nominated for the Sakharov Prize because she was someone who showed a great deal of courage fighting for human rights in Azerbaijan and defending these rights. The European Parliament calls on the government in Azerbaijan to release this innocent woman whose health has dramatically deteriorated", said Schulz adding "we have tried to send a parliamentary delegation to Azerbaijan to visit Mrs. Yunus and to this date we have not succeeded in doing so. Therefore, I would like to emphatically protest against our colleagues having been denied access by the authorities of Azerbaijan up to this very date. This is not acceptable and the fact that her daughter is here today is a symbolic act”.
Leyla Yunus is accused of high treason, spying for Armenia, illegal business activities, document forgery, and fraud.
International human rights organizations condemn the arrest and demand for her immediate release.