The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded today, December 12, to jailed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi.

Martin Shulz, the President of the European Parliament, said: “We are honouring these people who are standing for a better Iran.”

Neither of the award winners was able to attend the ceremony in Strasbourg. Sotodueh is serving a six-year sentence and Panahi is banned from leaving Iran.

Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel Peace laureate, received the Sakhariv Prize on Sotoudeh’s behalf, while Franco-Greek director Costa Gavras received the prize for Panahi.

Sotoudeh’s message, read by Ebadi, called for an end to “persecution of individuals for their opinions.”

“My only dream is the realization of justice and this can only be achieved in my country with the independence of the judiciary,” Sotoudeh writes; “But there is a long road left to the independence of the judiciary, and when political activists, lawyers, elections protesters, religious minorities and drug traffickers are being tried behind closed doors by the Revolutionary courts, the independence of the judiciary is far out of reach.”

Sotoudeh goes on to add: “Government should understand that their existence can be achieved through no other path than respect for the rights of every individual.”

Panahi’s message refers to the death of Sattar Beheshti, the jailed blogger who died in prison a few days after his arrest, and the incarceration of human rights lawyers such as Nasrin Sotoudeh, and he goes on to describe the prohibition from filmmaking imposed on him by the Iranian judiciary as a slow death.

Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi were arrested and sentenced to prison in the wave of government crackdowns on election protesters that followed the 2009 presidential election, which was marred by allegations of fraud.