The United States congratulates Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and filmmaker Jafar Panahi for receiving the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. We also wish to congratulate the other finalists, Ales Byalyatski, a recipient of the State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Defender award, Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina.
The work of Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi to uphold human rights and promote freedom of expression represents the desires of all Iranians to exercise their basic rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, they will not be able to enjoy today's recognition. Despite her deteriorating health, Iranian authorities have imprisoned Sotoudeh and sentenced her to six more years in prison. Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison and a 20-year ban on filmmaking and travel has been imposed on him. We call on the Iranian government to release Sotoudeh immediately, lift the restrictions and sentence on Panahi and release all political prisoners and others detained simply for their religious or political beliefs.