Cuba`s `Ladies in White` receive US rights award

The Ladies in White group received the Human Rights Defender Award.

Washington: A Cuban opposition group whose members are wives and relatives of jailed dissidents received a major human rights award on Thursday from the US State Department.

The Ladies in White group -- known in Cuba as "Las Damas de Blanco" -- received the Human Rights Defender Award for "exceptional valour and leadership in advocating the protection of human rights and democracy in the face of government repression”.

"We are very pleased and moved to know that our peaceful actions to free political prisoners have been recognised," Berta Soler, one of the leaders of the group, said in Havana.

A member of the Ladies in White was on hand in Washington to receive the award at a State Department ceremony.

Founded after the arrest and imprisonment of 75 Cuban dissidents in 2003, the women march peacefully in Havana every Sunday in white clothing, a color they say is intended to symbolise peace.

"For us, it is very important that our work be recognized, even though we don`t do it for an award," Soler added.

"Our only true reward will be when they release all the prisoners."

Even though the 75 dissidents have all been freed -- including the 52 released after an agreement was reached between the Cuban government and the Catholic church last summer -- the Ladies in White continue their protests.

"There are still about 60 prisoners left to free," said another Ladies in White leader, Laura Pollan, adding that the group was preparing a list of dissidents still in prison.

Bureau Report