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The 2015 Front Line Defenders Award
The 2015 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was presented to imprisoned Chinese HRD Guo Feixiong.
At the ceremony in Dublin City Hall on Friday morning, 11 September 2015, Irish author and playwright Sebastian Barry presented the award to Guo's wife, Zhang Qing, and daughter, Yang Tianjiao (Sara).
The annual award is co-presented by the Al-Jazeera Media Network.
The Front Line Defenders Award is presented annually to one human rights defender who has made an exceptional contribution to defending the human rights of others in their country. Around the world human rights defenders are smeared in the media, arrested and intimidated and accused of undermining the interests of the state or involvement in terrorism.
The Front Line Defenders Award recognises the legitimacy of their work and highlights its vital importance in creating more just and equal societies.
The Jury, consisting of: Mr Pat Breen TD, Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Averil Power, Mr Ruairi Quinn TD, Mr Sami Alhaj, representing Al Jazeera and Ms Noeline Blackwell, Board of Trustees, Front Line Defenders received nominations from 27 countries. All 5 finalists for this year's Award are either in jail, in hiding or face the threat of jail because of their peaceful work defending the rights of others.
"As we celebrate the courage and commitment of 5 exceptional human rights defenders it is a matter of deep concern that all of the Finalists for this year's Front Line Defenders Award are either in jail, in hiding or face the threat of jail simply because they have the courage to defend the rights of others" said Mary Lawlor, Executive Director, Front Line Defenders, following the jury meeting which took place in Buswell's Hotel in Dublin.
The Finalists for the 2015 Front Line Defenders Award were:
Juan Carlos Flores Solís, Mexico, an environmental rights campaigner, was recently released from prison, but has a charge pending, because he led the opposition of local peasant and indigenous communities to the construction of a gas pipeline on their land near an active volcano.
Diane Marie Rodríguez Zambrano, Ecuador, LGBTI rights activist and the first trans woman to stand for public office in Ecuador has been threatened, intimidated and even kidnapped because of her work promoting the rights of the transgender community. Despite the constant pressure she refuses to give up.
Guo Feixiong, China a Chinese legal activist, also known as Yang Maodong, has been repeatedly jailed and brutally tortured for challenging corruption, defending the rights of human rights defenders, minority groups and small farmers whose land had been confiscated. He is currently in prison awaiting sentencing.
Rasul Jafarov, Azerbaijan one of the most prominent HRDs in Azerbaijan, was arrested on bogus charges of “ illegal enterprise, tax evasion, and abuse of official power. A lawyer by profession, Rasul Jafarov is Head of the Human Rights Club and Coordinator of the Art for Democracy campaign, which has launched several campaigns against politically-motivated imprisonment, including the Sing for Democracy campaign which took place in the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2012. On 16 April Rasul was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison, recently reduced by 3 months.
Yara Sallam, Egypt - Egypt is a human rights lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). On 21 June 2014, she was arrested on the day of a peaceful demonstration against the controversial "Protest Law." On 29 October 2014, Yara, and a number of other activists, were convicted on these charges, despite the absence of credible evidence and clear inconsistencies in police reports of the event. She was sentenced to three years' imprisonment,three years' police monitoring and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian Pounds (approx. €1,000). This sentence was later reduced on appeal to two years' imprisonment, two years' monitoring and no fine.