|AUDJ supporter chants slogans for release of Birtukan|
Note - Prominent Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa, who was released on October 6 in Addis from nearly two years of imprisonment, emerged on Monday one of three finalists for the prestigious Sakharov Prize. The others are an Israeli NGO known as Breaking the Silence and Cuban longtime dissident Dr. Guillermo Fariñas. It is a huge success for the pro-democracy camp in Ethiopia that Birtukan has been a finalist from nine other nominees. The winner of the Sakharov Prize will be announced October 21, 2010.
Breaking the Silence is an Israeli NGO, established in 2004, by Israeli soldiers and veterans who collect and provide testimonies about their military service in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem during the second Intifada. The NGO is dedicated to exposing the Israeli public to the realities of the Israeli occupation, as seen through the eyes of Israeli soldiers, and to stirring debate about the impact of the prolonged occupation on the Palestinian population and on Israeli society. "If we vote for Breaking the Silence were are voting for peace, we are voting for the honour of Israeli democracy and we are saying we are in favour of two states: the Palestinian State and the Israeli State (...) Awarding the prize, we want to give peace a chance", declared Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Greens/EFA, FR).
Guillermo Fariñas, aged 48, was nominated in the name of all those who fight in Cuba for freedom and human rights. He is a doctor of psychology, independent journalist and political dissident in Cuba. He has conducted 23 hunger strikes over the years "not in his own favour but in order to defend his compatriots" said José Ignacio Salafranca (EPP, ES). A supporter of non-violence who dares to denounce the Castro regime, "Guillermo Fariñas is a symbol in the struggle against the imprisonment of political opponents (). Because he is defending dignity and democracy in his country, he is the ideal candidate for the Sakharov Prize" say the MEPs who nominated him.
Birtukan MIDEKSA, an Ethiopian politician and former judge, is the leader of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party. On December 28 2008, Birtukan Mideska was re-arrested and imprisoned to serve a life sentence, after having spoken in Sweden with journalists about the way opposition leaders were released in her country. She was released from prison at the beginning of October, after almost two years' incarceration.
"The Saharov prize should be given to those who need international visibility and protection. Birtukan Mideksa needs both. By awarding the Saharov prize to Birtukan Mideksa, representing all Ethiopian political prisoners, the European Parliament would bring hope and would call attention to this young mother, one of the few female party leaders in Africa. It would also guarantee visibility of the struggle of thousands of forgotten political prisoners who fight for justice, the rule of law and democracy in Ethiopia", declared Adrian Severin (S&D, RO).