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European Parliament delegation cancels Iran trip

A European Parliament delegation has cancelled a trip to Iran, where the MEPs had planned to meet Sakharov Prize winners Nasrin Soutoudeh and Jafar Panahi. Iranian officials refused them access to the Prize winners.

The five members of the European Parliament had hoped to meet the two recipients of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and present them with their awards in person. Shortly before their departure time the delegation announced it had cancelled its plans.

"The Iranian authorities have refused to give permission to a delegation of five MEPs set to travel to Tehran to meet with this year's Sakharov Prize winners Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi, after which the delegation cancelled the visit," the European Parliament
said in a statement.

Watch video 01:26

Prestigious European Prize to Two Iranians

The delegation had reportedly planned to travel to Iran for several days, during which they asked to visit the human rights lawyer Soutoudeh and the filmmaker Panahi. Iranian official Hossein Sheilkholeslam told Iranian media sources that Tehran would not agree to the condition.

"We refuse it as this precondition is contrary to our policies," Sheilkholeslam said.

The European Parliament announced the winners of the 2012 Sakharov Prize on Friday. Soutoudeh and Panahi beat out four nominees, which included members of the Russian band Pussy Riot; Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski; legal aid worker Joseph Francis; and imprisoned Rwandan opposition politicians Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Deogratias Mushazidi and Bernard Ntaganda.

Both Soutoudeh and Panahi have garnered attention for their work in Iran. Soutoudeh is currently serving a prison sentence. Following the disputed presidential elections in Iran in 2009, the rights lawyer worked with opposition activists who had been jailed.

Panahi has become known as an influential filmmaker, winning the 1995 Camera d'Or at Cannes.

"This Is Not a Film" was smuggled out of Iran to Cannes via a USB drive baked into a cake. Panahi is currently banned from making films and faces a six-year sentence.

Winners of the Sakharov Prize receive 50,000 euros (US$64,700). The 2012 award ceremony is scheduled to take place in Strasbourg, France, in December.

kms/pfd (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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