World (AP)

For imprisoned Nobel laureates, the prize did not bring freedom | AP News

For imprisoned Nobel laureates, the prize did not bring freedom | AP News

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee urged Iran to release imprisoned peace prize winner Narges Mohammadi and let her accept the award at the annual prize ceremony in December.

Such appeals have had little effect in the past.

Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights activist, is the fifth peace laureate to get the prize while in prison or under house arrest. In none of the previous cases did the prize result in the recipient’s release. Two of them remained in captivity until they died.

Here’s a look at previous Nobel laureates who were in detention:


The 1935 Nobel Peace Prize to German journalist Carl Von Ossietzky so infuriated Adolf Hitler that the Nazi leader prohibited all Germans from receiving Nobel Prizes.

Ossietzky had been imprisoned for exposing secret plans for German rearmament in the 1920s. He was released after seven months but arrested again and sent to a concentration camp after the Nazis took power in 1933.

Despite a campaign to set him free, the government refused to release Ossietzky, who was ill with tuberculosis.

Ossietzky was barred from traveling to Norway to accept the award and was kept under surveillance at a civilian hospital until his death in 1938. He was the first Nobel peace laureate to die in captivity.


The Nobel Peace Prize helped raise international support for Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest when she won the award in 1991. However, she remained in and out of house arrest until her release in 2010.

She gave her Nobel acceptance speech two years later, but once in government, her Nobel glory faded as she faced criticism for ignoring and sometimes defending atrocities by the military, including a 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

Suu Kyi was detained again when the military ousted her elected government in 2021, and she remains imprisoned despite calls for her release by the Norwegian Nobel Committee and others. In August, the military-led government reportedly reduced her prison sentences, but the 78-year-old must still serve a total of 27 of the 33 years she was given.


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

The award prompted world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, to call for Liu’s release, but to no avail.

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

No friend or relative was able to accept the award on Liu’s behalf. His wife was placed under house arrest, and dozens of his supporters were prevented from leaving the country. Liu’s absence was marked by an empty chair at the award ceremony in Oslo.

He died from liver cancer in 2017.


Belarussian pro-democracy campaigner Ales Bialiatski, who shared last year’s Nobel Peace Prize with human rights groups in Russia and Ukraine, was the fourth person to receive the award while in captivity.

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

A court sentenced him to 10 years in prison in March. Bialiatski and his colleagues at Viasna were convicted of financing actions violating public order and smuggling, the center reported. In May, his wife said he had been transferred to a notoriously brutal Belarusian prison.