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April 25, 2013 7:39 pm

EU Parliament Iran Visit Under Fire For Not Including Meeting with Human Rights Winners

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Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought along with Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. However, Iran has refused to allow an EU delegation to meet with the men. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has criticized the European Parliament for going forward with a trip to Iran despite the country’s refusal to allow the parliament’s delegation to meet with two human rights prizewinners.

In 2012, Iranian Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and filmmaker Jafar Panahi were awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Then, a planned European Parliament delegation visit to Iran was canceled because the Iranian government refused to let the delegation meet with the two winners and give them their prize. Now, the European Parliament has dropped the requirement to meet with the two winners, allowing the visit to take place without the meeting. On Friday, Tarja Cronberg of Finland, the chair of the parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iran, as well as Vice Chair Cornelia Ernst of Germany, plan to arrive in Tehran.

Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute, said in a statement that the European Parliament “rightly, albeit belatedly, recognized the struggle for human rights in Iran last December by choosing two courageous Iranian activists to receive the prestigious Sakharov Prize.”

By removing the requirement to meet with the winners, the European Parliament is “completely undermining the powerful human rights message that the award sent to Iran’s oppressive, internationally isolated leadership,” Schwammenthal added.

“By letting the regime effectively dictate who they can and cannot meet, the European delegation visit will be nothing more than a propaganda tool for Tehran, which will present it as ‘evidence’ that the Islamic Republic is far from being isolated… The grave human rights situation in Iran requires a strong, united response from the European Union, not photo-ops with the repressors themselves,” he said.

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