Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cuba refuses dissident exit visa

Cuba refuses dissident exit visa

Farinas: Government "is behaving in an arrogant manner"
The Cuban authorities have refused an exit visa for a leading Cuban
dissident to travel to France to receive the EU's Sakharov Prize for
Freedom of Thought.

Guillermo Farinas launched a prolonged hunger strike earlier this year,
protesting against the plight of Cuba's political prisoners.

He called the Cuban authorities arrogant for not granting him permission
to travel.

He said it revealed their disregard for individual liberty.

Mr Farinas was near to death earlier this year, on a drip feed in
hospital, when President Raul Castro authorised the release of 52 of the
island's most prominent prisoners of conscience.

It was an unprecedented breakthrough brokered by the Roman Catholic Church.

The 48-year-old political activist had hoped to attend Wednesday's award
ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Empty chair

The Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought is the EU's top annual human
rights award and the winner receives about $70,000 (£44,400).

Earlier this week the president of the European Parliament made a
last-minute plea to the Cuban authorities on Guillermo Farinas' behalf
but to no avail.

Instead the Cuban dissident will be represented by an empty chair.

It will be the second time in a week there will be an empty chair at an
international human rights award ceremony, after imprisoned Chinese
activist Liu Xiaobo was unable to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony
in Oslo.

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