The “Arab Spring”, Belarus civil activist Bandarenka and Colombian San José de Apartadó peace community shortlisted for Sakharov Prize 2011

The European Parliament has selected as the three finalist for the Sakharov Prize of year 2011 a group of five activists from the Arab world, as well as Dzmitry Bandarenka and the San José de Apartadó Peace Community. The final winner of the Prize will be announced by the Parliament on 27 October.

The shortlist of nominees for the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought drawn up by Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Development Committees out of a list of five nominations, includes a first collective nomination for five persons involved in the “Arab Spring. Asmaa Mahfouz (Egypt), Ahmed al-ZubairAhmed al-Sanusi (Libya), Razan Zaitouneh (Syria), Ali Farzat (Syria) and Mohamed Bouazizi (Tunisia) have been nominated fort their decisive roles in these movements and for risking their lives in the name of democracy.

The second nomination goes to Dzmitry Bandarenka, a Belarusian civil activist and member of the Belarusian Association of Journalists who is also the co-founder of the Charter '97 civil rights initiative. He is also co-ordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign. Mr Bandarenka was the proxy of the opposition presidential candidate for the Belarus 2010 presidential elections. Further to the elections he was charged with participating and organising mass disturbances and remains in detention waiting for trial.

Finally, the Colombian San José de Apartadó Peace Community of “campesinos” has been nominated for their role as an internationally recognized symbol of courage, resilience and dedication to the values of peace and justice, in an environment of brutality and destruction.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded by the European Parliament every year since 1988 to individuals or organizations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy. In 2010, Sakharov Prize was awarded to Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who was not able to receive the Prize in person as Cuban authorities did not grant the permission to leave the country.