Belarusian Opposition Leader Wins Sakharov Prize

PRAGUE, October 26, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Belarusian opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich has been awarded the Sakharov Prize, the European Union's top human rights award.

The European Parliament in a statement today said Milinkevich was this year's winner of the prize, awarded annually to individuals and groups fighting against oppression, intolerance, and injustice.

Milinkevich lost to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in March polls that were condemned by the European Union and the United States as fraudulent. He was subsequently arrested and held for 15 days for protesting the results.

Milinkevich told RFE/RL in a recent interview he was not fighting Lukashenka, he was fighting for democratic ideas.

"What I'm fighting for are ideas, because everything is distorted by the ever-present propaganda," he said. "Even today, without manifestations, we carry on this work on a daily basis; we distribute information, we mobilize people, we travel to towns and villages."

The prize, named after Andrei Sakharov, one of the most prominent Soviet dissidents, goes with a check for 50,000 euros ($63,000). It will be awarded during a formal plenary session of the European Parliament on December 13.

(with material from AP, Reuters)