US President George W Bush announced the recipients of the 2006 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honour, including former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky and legendary blues guitarist BB King.
"Natan Sharansky was imprisoned in the gulag by the Soviet regime for his work to advance religious liberty and human rights," read a White House statement yesterday announcing this year's 10 recipients of the honour.
"He remained steadfast in his defiance of tyranny and has continued to champion the principles that all people deserve to live in freedom and that the advance of liberty is critical to peace and security around the world."
The statement hailed King as "one of the greatest blues singers and guitarists of all time."
"For more than half a century, the 'King of the Blues' and his guitar 'Lucille' have thrilled audiences, influenced generations of guitarists and helped give the blues its special place in the American musical tradition," the announcement said.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, established in 1963, is awarded by the president for an honouree's "especially meritorious contribution" to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, or for their accomplishments in the areas of culture or "other significant public or private endeavors."
The recipients will be feted at a White House ceremony on December 15.