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Parliament's beleaguered Sakharov Prize struck by another nomination controversy




o-ALAA-ABDELFATTAH-facebookThe nomination process for the European Parliament’s 2014 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was said to have descended into "farce" this week when the GUE/NGL group was forced to hastily withdraw its support for an Egyptian blogger who advocated “killing all Zionists”.

The left-wing alliance of MEPs posted an "extraordinary" climb down on its website after it emerged that one of its candidates, Alaa Abdel Fatah (pictured), had called for the murder of “a number of Jews”.

GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer wrote on the site: “It emerges that one of the bloggers we proposed, Alaa Abdel Fatah who was a victim of repression in Egypt and jailed several times, called for the murder "of a critical number of Israelis" in a tweet in 2012. We did not avail of this information when we put forward his candidacy.

“Needless to say, we cannot and will not tolerate such behaviour.”

The episode follows the controversial nomination of Azerbaijani activist Leyla Yunus, despite the fact she is embroiled in unresolved criminal proceedings in her own country over a string of fraud allegations.

That nomination by the Alde group was branded “not appropriate” by one Socialist MEP.

"The Sakharov Prize is the EU´s most prestigious human rights award but, in the circumstances, I do not think her nomination is appropriate," the deputy said at the time.


In the wake of these episodes, senior UK Tory MEP Charles Tannock  on Friday (3 October) said: "All groups should do their due diligence first, particularly with controversial candidates."

UKIP Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall said: "For GUE to nominate someone who advocated the murder of innocent people just because they are Israeli is quite repugnant.

“GUE have done the right thing in now withdrawing his nomination which, of course, should never have been made in the first place,” he added.

Further comment came from Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, who said: "The Sakharov prize is intended for those who fight against intolerance and fanaticism, not those who preach it.”

The Alaa Abdel Fattah nomination hit international attention this week when the Wall Street Journal chronicled his outbursts.

The newspaper quoted him as tweeting: "Dear Zionists please don't ever talk to me, I'm a violent person who advocated the killing of all Zionists including civilians."

He was nominated by GUE/NGL for his stance against the current military rule in Egypt.

The Sakharov Prize was founded by the European Parliament in 1988 and is named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Past winners include Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Kofi Anan.

Last year it was far less controversial; won by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban because she blogged about education for girls.

One centre-right MEP, who did not wish to be named, said: "The withdrawal of a nominee is extraordinary, something I have not heard of before, and I have to say that this year's Prize is fast descending into farce."

No one from the GUE group was immediately available for comment.

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