Posted : Wed, 15 Dec 2010 17:20:23 GMT
Strasbourg, France - A Cuban dissident honoured Wednesday with a
prestigious human rights award called on the European Union not to
soften its stance against the Castro regime.
Guillermo Farinas made his appeal via a recorded speech, as he was not
allowed to travel to Strasbourg to collect the European Parliament's
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
During the ceremony, his chair was left empty, with the Cuban flag
draped over it.
"The fact that I cannot leave and return voluntarily to the island where
I was born is, in itself, the most irrefutable witness to the fact that
unfortunately, nothing has changed in the autocratic system ruling my
country," Farinas said, according to a parliament statement.
Farinas, a 49-year-old psychologist who has undertaken several hunger
strikes to defend human rights and protest against Communist repression,
was named the 2010 Sakharov Prize winner in October.
He said the EU should unfreeze relations with Cuba only after the
release of all political prisoners, the legalisation of opposition
parties and a review of laws which contravene human rights.
Dozens of political dissidents have been freed this year following
mediation by Spain and the Catholic Church, leading the Madrid
government to urge the EU to recognize the move by thawing its stance
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected to report on the
options for political dialogue with the country in January. On
Wednesday, she congratulated Farinas and gave assurances that human
rights would continue to top her agenda.
The ceremony in the parliament's chamber was reminiscent of the one held
last week by the Nobel Prize committee, where an empty chair was left
for Liu Xiaobo, the Peace Prize laureate who was unable to attend
because he has been jailed by Chinese authorities.
But it is not the first time that Sakharov winners were not able to
collect the prize in person. Past examples include Hu Jia, another
jailed Chinese human rights activist, the Cuban association Ladies in
White and Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.