Jailed Uighur, Brazil chief among European rights prize nominees

Brussels (AFP) –


A Uighur scholar imprisoned in China since 2014 and a trio of Brazilian activists were nominated Tuesday for a top European rights prize, along with Kenyans fighting female genital mutilation.

The European Parliament named Ilham Tohti -- serving a life sentence on separatism charges for advocating the rights of Uighurs, a Muslim minority in China's northwest Xinjiang region -- on the shortlist for its Sakharov Prize, weeks after he scooped another award for his activism, much to Beijing's anger.

From Brazil, murdered political activist Marielle Franco made the list jointly with tribal chief Raoni Metuktire, who campaigns against the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and rights defender Claudelice Silva dos Santos.

Last month the Council of Europe awarded its Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize to Tohti for "giving the entire Uighur people a voice", drawing bitter criticism from the Chinese authorities, who said that even nominating him was effectively "supporting terrorism".

Rights groups say the Uighurs have suffered a severe crackdown that has seen millions interned in re-education camps whose existence China denied until recently.

The 50,000-euro Sakharov Prize, set up in 1988 and named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded every year to individuals or organisations which have made "an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy".

Rounding out the shortlist are five students from Kenya -- Stacy Owino, Cynthia Otieno, Purity Achieng, Mascrine Atieno and Ivy Akinyi -- who call themselves the Restorers, having developed a smartphone app to help girls deal with female genital mutilation.