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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Belarussian takes EU rights award
Alexander Milinkevich
Alexander Milinkevich joins a list of famous activists
The European Union's top human rights award, the Sakharov Prize, has been given to Belarussian opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich.

Mr Milinkevich lost his country's presidential election in March to incumbent Alexander Lukashenko in a poll dogged by accusations of rigging.

The prize is awarded to people or groups seen to have made a particular achievement in the human rights field.

Past winners include South Africa's Nelson Mandela and the UN's Kofi Annan.

The 2004 prize went to the Belarussian Association of Journalists.

EU sanctions

No details of the 2006 citation were immediately available.

The European Union imposed sanctions on Belarus after the election, placing a visa ban on Mr Lukashenko and his top aides and freezing any assets they held in its territory.

Official election results had given him nearly 83% of the vote to 6% for Mr Milinkevich.

Correspondents said at the time that Mr Lukashenko had genuine popular support, particularly in rural areas, but his authoritarian policies as well as allegations of some ballot-rigging prompted angry protests.

Mr Milinkevich, who will receive a cheque for 50,000 euros ($63,000), was chosen in a vote by European MPs.

Other nominees shortlisted for the award were campaigners for the release of hostages in Colombia and Ghassan Tueni, father of a Lebanese journalist killed in a car bombing.

The prize is named after Andrei Sakharov, the prominent Soviet dissident who died in 1989, a few years after restrictions on his freedom of movement were lifted.

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