EU awards Sakharov Prize to Belarus leader

BRUSSELS, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- The European Parliament has presented the Sakharov Prize for human rights to Belarus opposition leader Aleksander Milinkevich.

The Parliament said Milinkevich was chosen for his work promoting democracy in the country amid repression by President Aleksander Lukashenko, the EU Observer reported Thursday. Milinkevich was jailed for 15 days after leading demonstrations against elections that were certified "fake" by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Aleksander Kozulin, who worked with Milinkevich during the campaign, has been sentenced to five years in a labor camp for his role in the protests.

"Milinkevich is a brave man. But this award is for everybody fighting for freedom in Belarus -- Kozulin and the 16 other political prisoners," said human rights campaigner Irina Krasvoskaya.

"It gives hope that one day there will be change in Belarus. This is a very good occasion to remind everybody that 10 million people are currently living under a dictatorship in the heart of Europe," she said.

Milinkevich is expected to collect his $63,000 prize Dec. 13.