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Internet among Nobel Peace Prize nominees

By Ian MacDougall
Associated Press Writer / February 2, 2010

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OSLO—Candidates for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize include a Russian human rights group, a Chinese dissident and an inanimate object: the Internet, people who made the nominations said Tuesday.

As the submission deadline for the coveted award closed, the Nobel Committee maintained its tradition of giving no hints -- the contenders are kept secret for 50 years. But some nominations were announced by those who made them.

Those with nomination rights include former peace laureates, members of national governments and legislatures, selected university professors and others.

Erna Solberg, the head of Norway's Conservative Party, put forth Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina and Memorial, a prominent rights group she works with.

Gannushkina heads the Civic Assistance Committee, which works under the auspices of Memorial primarily for the rights of migrant workers. Memorial, a frequent critic of the Kremlin, says the high-profile murder of Memorial rights activist Natalya Estemirova in July 2009 and the December 2008 raid of its St. Petersburg office by Russian authorities are among the many injustices it's faced because of its dogged activism.

"These are people who are at the forefront of human rights and are putting their lives at risk for their work," Solberg told The Associated Press.

Gannushkina told the AP in Moscow she felt "embarrassed" to be mentioned in the same breath as other great rights activists.

As for Memorial, "this is the acknowledgment of Russia's human rights workers, and this is well deserved," she said.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of the PEN American Center and a Princeton philosophy professor, said in a statement that he had nominated Liu Xiaobo, a recently jailed Chinese dissident, for his "distinguished and principled leadership in the area of human and political rights and freedom of expression." The Chinese government urged the jury to disregard the submission.

"It would be completely wrong for the Nobel Prize committee to award the prize to such a person," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Tuesday when asked about Liu's nomination in Beijing.

Former Illinois Governor George Ryan -- now imprisoned after being convicted of federal corruption charges -- was nominated by Francis A. Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, for his campaign to abolish the death penalty.

The Internet was proposed by the Italian version of Wired magazine, which cited its use as a tool to advance "dialogue, debate and consensus through communication" and to promote democracy. Organizers said signatories to its petition backing the nomination include 2003 peace laureate and exiled Iranian activist Shirin Ebadi -- which would make it a legitimate entry.

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Associated Press Writers Christopher Bodeen in Beijing and David Nowak in Moscow contributed to this report.