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European Parliament Awards Sakharov Prize To Venezuela's Democratic Opposition

A demonstrator catches fire during clashes with riot police within a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas in May.

The democratic opposition in Venezuela has been named as the winner of the European Parliament's 2017 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The legislature on October 26 awarded its prestigious prize to Venezuela's opposition-dominated National Assembly and to all political prisoners in the Latin American country.

Venezuela has been embroiled by in a political and economic crisis for months, with President Nicolas Maduro's government accused by protesters at home and Western governments of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

In March, the Supreme Court stripped the democratically elected National Assembly of legislative power and a rival assembly was created to rewrite the country's constitution.

"Since the beginning of the year, more than 130 people have been killed in street protests, most of them in anti-government demonstrations and more than 500 people have been arbitrarily imprisoned," according to a European Parliament statement.

The annual Sakharov Prize was established in 1988 by the EU's parliament to honor individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The prize, named in honor of the Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, is worth 50,000 euros ($59,000) and will be presented to the winners at a ceremony in Strasbourg on December 13.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and dpa
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