Cuban dissident Farinas wins Sakharov rights prize: Sources

The European parliament awarded its prestigious Sakharov human rights prize to Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, parliamentary sources said.

Updated: Oct 21, 2010, 20:42 PM IST

Strasbourg: The European parliament
awarded its prestigious Sakharov human rights prize to Cuban
dissident Guillermo Farinas, parliamentary sources told a news agency on Thursday.

"The Sakharov winner is Guillermo Farinas," a source
said on condition of anonymity.

The 48-year-old journalist and psychologist has often
used hunger strikes, putting his own health at risk, as a
means of protest to achieve greater freedoms in the Communist
island of Cuba.

Farinas is the third Cuban to receive the prize, after
Oswaldo Paya in 2002 and the "Ladies in White" group of women
whose husbands are jailed in Cuba, which received the award in
2005.

European parliament president Jerzy Buzek will
officially announce Farinas as the winner of the Sakharov
Prize later today. The award will be presented to the winner
on December 15.

The 22nd Sakharov Prize, named after late Soviet
dissident Andrei Sakharov, comes with a cash award of 50,000
euros (70,000 dollars).

Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa and
Israeli rights group, breaking the Silence, had also been on
the shortlist for this year`s award.

The decision to give this year`s award to Farinas came
four days before European Union foreign ministers meet in
Luxembourg to discuss the 27-nation bloc`s relations with
Cuba.

Spain`s Socialist government wants the EU to normalise
relations with Cuba, a position opposed by the Czech Republic
and Slovakia, former communist bloc countries.

The EU`s "common position" at present is to insist
that Cuba make progress on human rights and democracy before
ties are normalised.

Farinas held a 135-day hunger strike earlier this year
that left him near death but compelled the Cuban government to
agree to release 52 political prisoners.

Another fast between 1995 and 1997 brought attention
to his allegations of corruption at the hospital where he
worked.

He also carried out a six-month hunger strike in 2006,
but that time he failed to force the government to allow freer
access to the Internet.

PTI