EU Sakharov prize finalists revealed

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Brussels (AFP)

The Venezuelan opposition, a Guatemalan indigenous leader and an imprisoned Eritrean writer have been shortlisted for the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize.

The parliament said the three finalists for 2016 are Guatemalan Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic, Venezuela's democratic opposition and Swedish-Eritrean journalist and playwright Dawit Isaak.

Named after the dissident Soviet scientist Andrei Sakharov, who died in 1989, the prize is awarded every year to honour individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression, often falling foul of their governments as a result.

The winner, parliament said in a statement, will be chosen on October 26 by the presidents of the European Parliament's political groups and Parliament President Antonio Tajani.

Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic is a member of the Council of Ki’che’ Peoples, which fights to protect natural resources and human rights from the expansion of mining, logging, hydroelectric and agro-industry sectors, the parliament said, adding she has faced threats.

Also on the list is Venezuela's democratic opposition, led by National Assembly leader Julio Borges and including all political prisoners who were also Sakharov finalists in 2015.

"The situation in Venezuela has been seriously deteriorating as regards democracy, human rights and socio-economy, in a climate of growing political and social instability," it said.

Dawit Isaak was arrested in 2001 by the Eritrean authorities during a political crackdown and has been imprisoned without a trial since, the parliament said.

Isaak, a finalist in 2009, was last seen in 2005, it added.

The prize worth 50,000 euros will be handed to the winner during an official ceremony in the European Parliament on December 13.

Last year's prize was awarded to Nadia Murad and Lamia Haji Bashar, two Yazidi women activists who escaped the Islamic State group in Iraq.