WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Imprisoned Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is the winner of this year's Lech Walesa award that promotes human rights, officials said Thursday.
Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky has been convicted in two separate trials in Russia of evading taxes and stealing oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds. He is due for release in 2014.
His case is seen as President Vladimir Putin's punishment for Khodorkovsky's political ambitions and support for the opposition.
The European Court of Human Rights has said that Russia unfairly charged Khodorkovsky huge tax arrears, and unfairly sent him to a far-away penal colony in eastern Siberia to serve his sentence, thousands of miles from his family.
The board of the $100,000 Walesa award said that Khodorkovsky is being recognized for "courage in promoting civil society values," building foundations of economic freedom and his "unwavering struggle for justice and human dignity." The annual award was founded in 2008.
Former Polish president and Solidarity movement founder Walesa said that "Regardless of all the injustice suffered, (Khodorkovsky) has never stopped believing in the sense of his actions, persevering with his dream of a country open to the world, and a country in which human rights are respected."
Khodorkovsky's son Pavel is to receive the award on Sunday in Gdansk, where Walesa founded Solidarity in 1980. It later ousted communism from Poland, and Walesa won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize. The ceremony falls on Walesa's 70th birthday.
Pavel Khodorkovsky, who lives in New York and heads The Institute of Modern Russia think tank, plans to donate the money from the award to an organization chosen by his father.
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