Iranian rights activists Jafar Panahi and Nasrin Sotoudeh have been named the recipients of this year's European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The award recognizes "a woman and a man who have not been bowed by fear and intimidation and who have decided to put the fate of their country before their own," parliament president Martin Schulz said Friday.

Panahi, a cinema director, was sentenced to six years behind bars and barred from filmmaking for 20 years for his opposition to the Iranian regime.

He won a Silver Bear for best director at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival for "Offside," which tells the story of girls who dress up as boys to watch a World Cup qualifying match in person.

Panahi's films are banned in his homeland.

Sotoudeh, for her part, is an attorney with a long record of defending human rights activists, including some suspects arrested during protests against the June 2009 re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

She was arrested and sentenced to six years behind bars for conspiring against national security and spreading anti-government propaganda.

The awards are to be handed out in December in Strasbourg, France, although the two are not expected to be able to receive them at that time because of their detention.

The prize is named for Soviet-era dissident and physicist Andrei Sakharov. EFE