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Anti-Kremlin tycoon Khodorkovsky wins Lech Walesa freedom prize

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Anti-Kremlin firebrand Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of Russia's most high-profile prisoners, has been awarded the 2013 Lech Walesa freedom prize.

The jailed former Russian oil tycoon is being honoured "for his determined public activity promoting economic freedom, civil liberties and social justice, despite political adversity," the Lech Walesa foundation announced Thursday.

Khodorkovsky, 50, was imprisoned in 2005 on fraud and tax evasion charges, but his supporters have long argued he was deliberately targeted for being a potentially dangerous political opponent to President Vladimir Putin.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights concluded his trial had been "unfair" and ordered Moscow to pay compensation for his 11-year sentence in a remote prison colony in Karelia, northwestern Russia.

"Despite suffering injustice, he never stopped believing in his dream of creating an open country, where human rights are observed," the Walesa foundation statement said.

Khodorkovsky's son Pavel is expected in Poland this weekend to receive the prize in lieu of his father.

As Russia's former richest man, Khodorkovsky built up the now defunct Yukos energy firm into Russia's biggest oil company prior to his jailing in a remote prison colony in Karelia, northwestern Russia.

Rosneft, now Russia's biggest oil company, became a global energy giant after hoovering up Khodorkovsky's Yukos assets in disputed auctions.

Lech Walesa won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize for leading Poland's anti-communist Solidarity trade union, the Soviet bloc's first and only free union.

The freedom icon went on to become Poland's first post-war democratically elected president in 1991.

Created in 2008 and worth 100,000 euros ($135,200), the annual Lech Walesa Prize is "dedicated to all those working for understanding, cooperation and solidarity between peoples, in the name of freedom and values intrinsic to the Solidarity movement."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130926/anti-kremlin-tycoon-khodorkovsky-wins-lech-walesa-freedom-prize