Belarusian civil activist Dzmitry Bandarenka is one of the nominees for the European Parliament's 2011 Sakharov Price for Freedom of Thought.
The prize has been awarded since 1988 as a way to recognize individuals and organizations dedicated to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought.
Bandarenka was one of the co-funders of the Charter'97 civil rights initiative and worked as a campaign aid to the Belarusian presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau. Like Sannikau, he was arrested after the demonstrations in Belarus that followed the December 2010 election that kept President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to power. In April, he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
Each of the political groups in the European Parliament may nominate a candidate for the prize, with the ECR-group -- comprising mainly the British Tories and the Czech Civic Democratic Party -- putting forward Banadarenka's name. The Conference of Presidents, made up of chairmen of all the European Parliament's political groups, picks a consensus winner.
Although Bandarenka is likely to make it to the final three, he might just miss out on the 50,000-euro prize. The three largest groups in the chamber have all swung behind the nomination of five Arab spring activists from Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Tunisia.
-- Rikard Jozwiak