06:53 GMT +3 hours24 November 2014
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Iran Denies EU Delegation Meeting with Jailed Sakharov Prize Winners

World
(updated 18:28 28.10.2014)
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A delegation of the European Parliament cancelled its visit to Tehran on Saturday after the Iranian authorities refused to let them meet with two dissidents awarded with the Sakharov Prize, the parliament’s press service said.

A delegation of the European Parliament cancelled its visit to Tehran on Saturday after the Iranian authorities refused to let them meet with two dissidents awarded with the Sakharov Prize, the parliament’s press service said.

Five European parliamentarians intended to leave on Saturday for a weeklong visit to reopen a dialogue with Iranian counterparts and to meet with the Sakharov Prize laureates, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a jailed human rights attorney, and Jafar Panahi, a banned filmmaker put under house arrest.

"I deeply regret that permission to meet the Sakharov laureates was withheld. The European Parliament is nevertheless determined to continue its support for and involvement with the Iranian civil society," the European Parliament’s president, Martin Schulz, said.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is to be formally awarded at a ceremony in Strasbourg in December.

The prestigious prize, which was named after Soviet scientists and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, comes with a 50,000 euro award. It is given to individuals and organizations who have made a special contribution to the protection of human rights.

Nelson Mandela and Soviet dissident Anatoly Marchenko, who died in prison in 1986, were the first to be awarded the prize in 1988.