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RFE/RL's Ismayilova Wins 'Alternative Nobel' For Fight Against Corruption


Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova and three lawyers who have fought for social justice have won the Right Livelihood Award, a prize sometimes called the "alternative Nobel."

Ismayilova, an RFE/RL journalist who has tenaciously investigated evidence of graft in President Ilham Aliyev's government, is the first Azerbaijani winner of the award given by the Stockholm-based Right Livelihood Award Foundation.

She was cited for her "courage and tenacity in exposing corruption at the highest levels of government," the jury said.

After the awards were announced in Stockholm on September 26, Ismayilova tweeted, "Alternative Nobel Prize - Right Livelihood Award - for Honesty. Thanks to those who supported me on this endeavor!"

Ethiopian activist Yetnebersh Nigussie, who is blind, was credited with "promoting the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities," the foundation said.

Indian attorney Colin Gonsalves, founder of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), received mention for obtaining key court rulings to ensure basic human rights for "India's most marginalized and vulnerable citizens."

In 2001, Gonsalves secured an Indian Supreme Court ruling ensuring the right for all schoolchildren to get a free midday meal.

Ismayilova, Nigussie, and Gonsalves are to share the cash prize worth 3 million Swedish kronor ($374,000).

U.S. attorney Robert Bilott, who specializes in environmental law and regulating hazardous substances, was given an honorary award, meaning he would not receive a share of the prize money.

His cases include representing 70,000 people in the U.S. state of West Virginia whose drinking water was contaminated with a chemical.

In all, 102 nominations from 51 countries were considered this year. An award ceremony is scheduled for December 1.

The annual Right Livelihood Award, which was created in 1980, honors efforts that the prize founder, Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, felt were being ignored by the Nobel Prizes.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, and AP
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