For imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winners, recognition did not lead to freedom

Narges Mohammadi (Reihane Taravati via AP) (Reihane Taravati/)

The chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee urged Iran to release Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi from prison and allow her to receive the award at the annual awards ceremony in December.

However, these types of exhortations usually have few favorable results.

Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights defender, She is the fifth Nobel Peace Prize winner to receive it while in prison or under house arrest. In none of the previous cases did the prize result in the release of the winner. Two of them remained deprived of liberty until their death.

Here’s a look at the previous Nobel Peace Prize winners who were in detention at the time of the announcement:

Carl Von Ossietzky

Carl Von Ossietzky
Carl Von Ossietzky in a concentration camp in 1933 (Grosby)

The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to German journalist Carl Von Ossietzky in 1935 infuriated both Adolf Hitler that the Nazi leader forbade all Germans to accept a Nobel Prize.

Ossietzky had been imprisoned for revealing secret plans for German rearmament in the 1920s. He was released after seven months, but was then arrested again and sent to a concentration camp after the Nazi takeover in 1933.

Despite the campaigns for his release, The government refused to release Ossietzky, who had fallen ill with tuberculosis.

Ossietzky was prohibited from traveling to Norway to receive the award and was kept under guard in a civilian hospital until his death in 1938. He was the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in confinement.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi (AP Photo, file)
Aung San Suu Kyi (AP Photo, file) (Aung Shine Oo/)

The Nobel Peace Prize helped increase international support for Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest when he won the award in 1991. Still, he continued to be in and out of house arrest until his release in 2010.

Aung San Suu Kyi gave her Nobel reception speech two years later, but when she came into office, her Nobel Prize glory faded as she was criticized for ignoring and sometimes defending atrocities committed by the military, including the 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

Suu Kyi was detained again when the military overthrew her elected government in 2021, and remains imprisoned despite calls for her release from the Norwegian Nobel Committee and elsewhere. The military government reportedly reduced her prison sentences in August, but the 78-year-old leader still has to serve a total of 27 of the 33 years she was sentenced to.

Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo (AFP/ Jussi Nukari)
Liu Xiaobo (AFP/ Jussi Nukari) (AFP/)

Liu Xiaobo He was serving an 11-year prison sentence for inciting subversion by advocating broad political reforms and greater human rights in China when the Norwegian Nobel Committee selected him for the peace prize in 2010.

The award led several world leaders, including then-US President Barak Obama, to call for Liu’s release, but to no avail.

The decision deeply angered Beijing, which suspended trade negotiations with Norway.

No friends or family members were able to accept the award on Liu’s behalf. His wife was placed under house arrest and dozens of his collaborators were prohibited from leaving the country. Liu’s absence was evidenced by an empty chair at the awards ceremony in Oslo.

He died of liver cancer in 2017.

Ales Bialiatski

Ales Bialiatski (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, file)
Ales Bialiatski (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, file) (Sergei Grits/)

Ales BialiatskiBelarusian democracy advocate who last year shared the Nobel Peace Prize with human rights groups from Russia and Ukraine, He was the fourth person to receive the award while in captivity.

Bialiatski, now 61, founded the non-governmental organization Viasna Human Rights Center. He was detained following the 2020 protests against the re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

A court sentenced him to 10 years in prison in March. Bialiatsky and his Viasna colleagues were convicted of financing actions against public order and smuggling, the center reported. His wife said in May that Bialiatsky had been transferred to a Belarusian prison notorious for its brutality.

(With information from AP)