Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cuba dissident Farinas awarded Sakharov Prize by EU

Cuba dissident Farinas awarded Sakharov Prize by EU
21 October 2010 Last updated at 11:12 GMT

* One of best-known Cuban dissidents; staged more than 20 hunger strikes
* Ended four-month hunger strike in July
* Supporter of non-violent protest, said he was ready to die in fight
for human rights in Cuba
* Trained and worked as a psychologist
* Independent journalist and founder of independent Cubanacan Press
* Received several international human rights awards

The European Parliament has awarded its Sakharov human rights prize to
Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas.

In July Mr Farinas, 48, ended a hunger strike after Cuba's communist
government announced it was freeing 52 political prisoners.

During his campaign for human rights he has staged more than 20 hunger
strikes and spent more than 11 years in prison.

An Israeli human rights watchdog and an Ethiopian opposition activist
had also been nominated for the prize.

Mr Farinas, a psychologist, journalist and former soldier, had been near
death while on hunger strike this year, doctors said.

The MEPs who nominated him for the prestigious award called him "a
beacon of hope for dozens of journalists and activists who are currently
in prison".

Cubans have been awarded the prize twice before: dissident Oswaldo Paya
in 2002 and the Ladies in White group of women whose husbands are jailed
in Cuba, who won the award in 2005.
Continue reading the main story
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* Cuba 'to release more prisoners'
* Cuban hunger striker returns home

Announcing the award on Thursday, the parliament president Jerzy Buzek
said Mr Farinas "was ready to sacrifice and risk his own health and life
as a means of pressure to achieve change in Cuba".

"I hope to hand over the award to him in person, here in Strasbourg, in
December, which would be a tremendous moment for the European Parliament
and for all Cuban prisoners of conscience.

"I sincerely hope that, together with Guillermo Farinas, the Ladies in
White (Damas de Blanco), another Cuban Sakharov laureate from 2005, will
also be able to collect their Sakharov Prize in person."

The European Union, like the US, has urged Cuba for years to free
political prisoners and improve human rights.

The Sakharov Prize was named after the late Soviet dissident Andrei
Sakharov and was first awarded in 1988. It includes a cash award of
50,000 euros.

The Russian human rights group Memorial won the award last year.

Spain has called on the EU to normalise relations with Cuba, but the
Czech Republic and Slovakia - former communist bloc countries - are
among the member states against that idea.

EU foreign ministers are due to discuss relations with Cuba next week.

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