Jury member says he the award will help election monitor in Azerbaijan, jailed for alleged tax evasion
Prague/Strasbourg, Sept. 29 (ČTK) — The prison sentence given to Azerbaijani human rights activist Anar Mammadli in May 2013 was one of the reasons why he was the winner of the Václav Havel Human Rights Award for 2014 in Strasbourg today, Czech member of the jury Martin Palouš has told the Czech News Agency (ČTK) by phone.
The prize was received by Mammadli’s father, who said he hopes the award will morally encourage his son and other political prisoners in the country.
The winner was announced at a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
Mammadli is the founder and chairman the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) in Baku that has been independently monitoring elections in Azerbaijan since 2001.
He was arrested last December. He was charged with alleged tax evasion, illegal business activities and abuse of his monitoring organization to falsify election results. Observers say the trial was fabricated.
Palouš, a former director of the Václav Havel Library, told ČTK that by choosing Mammadli for the award, the jury wanted to make a gesture with regard to Azerbaijan.
He said he hopes Mammadli will be soon released, just as Ales Bialiatski of Belarus, the first winner of the prize, was released. “This only confirmed the importance of the award,” Palouš said.
Bialiatski was also held in prison when he was granted the prize. He was released early from prison last June.
The prize is bestowed by the Council of Europe (CE) in cooperation with the Václav Havel Library, named after the late president of former Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic, who was a dissident until the fall of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989.
Anne Brasseur, chairwoman of the CE Parliamentary Assembly, pointed to the personality of Havel (193–-2011) and recalled that he said in Strasbourg in 1990 that “Without dreaming of a better Europe, we shall never build a better Europe.”
The prize is designed for individuals, NGOs and other institutions promoting human rights observance.
On the European level, the prize is considered a parallel to the annual Sakharov Prize, which the European Parliament launched 20 years ago and for which a long list of nominees was announced Sept. 19.
The Václav Havel Prize is worth some 60,000 euros.