ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - The European Parliament (EP) on Friday announced that the pro-Kurdish leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, currently held in Turkish jails, were among the nominees for its prestigious Sakharov Prize, awarded each year in the name of freedom of thought.
Turkish authorities arrested Demirtas, the co-leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), and the party's former co-leader in November 2016 as the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused them of 'terror-related' crimes.
Other nominees for the 2017 Sakharov are Asia Bibi (Aasiya Noreen), a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death in 2010 under the country's Islamic blasphemy law, and Venezuela's political prisoners challenging the Socialist government.
Charges prosecutors brought against the two politicians in Turkey throughout numerous trials have ranged from insulting Erdogan, collaborating with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), to working to divide the Turkish state with their speeches and political rallies.
Both face more than a combined 150 years of imprisonment from their numerous trials.
The European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) nominated Demirtas and Yuksekdag for the prize to honor their work in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms in Turkey, according to a statement on the EP's website.
If awarded the prize, Demirtas will become the fourth Kurdish Sakharov laureate since the honor was established in 1988.
Leyla Zana, a legendary politician, and the first Kurdish woman to make it to the Turkish Parliament in 1991, received the award in 1996.
Yuksekdag will become the second laureate from Turkey after Zana.
Turkish authorities had sentenced Zana to ten years in prison for a speech she, back then, made at a conference on Kurdish rights in the United States.
Last year, Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar, whom the Islamic State (IS) group for months held as sex slaves after its 2014 genocidal campaign against the Yezidi religious minority the two women belong to, became the second and third Kurdish recipients of Sakharov.
Editing by G.H. Renaud