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 prisoners.

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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