Monday, December 13, 2010

Cuba must let dissident pick up EU prize: parliament chief

Cuba must let dissident pick up EU prize: parliament chief
(AFP) Posted Monday December 13, 2010 –9:49am

European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek made a last-minute plea Monday
for Cuban authorities to let dissident Guillermo Farinas leave the
island to pick up the top EU rights prize.

"Regretfully, Mr. Farinas was not allowed to come and collect the prize
in person on Wednesday even though I have personally asked this in a
letter to the President of Cuba, Mr. Raul Castro," Buzek said.

"If Mr. Farinas could leave (in) the following hours, he would still be
able to join us on Wednesday," he said at the start of a parliament
session in Strasbourg, France.

The European Parliament decided in October to award its prestigious
Sakharov human rights prize to Farinas, who put his own health at risk
by carrying out 23 hunger strikes to protest Havana's policies.

Buzek called on EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to take Cuba's
refusal to allow the dissident to leave into consideration when
reviewing the EU's relations with the communist regime.

The 48-year-old Farinas, who heads the outlawed online agency Cubanacan
Press, held a 135-day hunger strike earlier this year that left him near
death but helped to compel the Cuban government to release 52 political

He is the third Cuban to win the Sakharov prize. The 2005 laureate, the
Ladies in White opposition movement, have not been able to come to
Strasbourg to collect their prize either.

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