Polish freedom icon Lech Walesa on Thursday nominated Alexei Navalny for a Nobel Peace Prize, lauding the jailed Russian opposition figure for his courage in working to reveal corruption and defend political pluralism.
Walesa himself won the award in 1983 for his leadership of the Solidarity labour movement that brought a peaceful end to communism in Poland, where he later became the first post-war democratically elected president.
Walesa’s secretary Marek Kaczmar told AFP the 77-year-old had nominated Navalny in a letter sent to the Nobel Committee on Thursday.
The move came just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic was sentenced to nearly three years in prison, leading his supporters to take to the streets of Moscow in protest.
Navalny received the jail term for violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence on embezzlement charges he claims were a pretext to silence him.
In an interview with AFP, Walesa called Navalny a “hero” and said if he could speak to him, he would tell the 44-year-old to follow his communist-era example and fight the system.
“I felt that it wasn’t the people who were to blame, but the system which allows for bad behaviour on the part of leaders. And that’s something you can see in Russia,” Walesa said.
Walesa said Navalny was fighting against totalitarianism on behalf of democratic ideals, basic human rights and freedom and the rule of law, according to excerpts from the letter quoted by the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.