Cuban dissident honored with human rights prize

A dissident has become the third Cuban in less than a decade to win a prestigious human rights prize awarded by the European Parliament. Ethiopian and Israeli human rights activists were also front runners for the award.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek announced Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas has won the Sakharov Prize.

“He was ready to sacrifice and risk his own health and life as a means of pressure to achieve change in Cuba,” Buzek said. “He used hunger strikes to protest and to challenge the lack of freedom of speech in Cuba, carrying the hopes for all those who care for freedom, human rights, and democracy.”

Farinas is a psychologist and journalist who has taken part in more than 20 hunger strikes in defiance of the Cuban government. He ended a 135-day hunger strike earlier this year after the Cuban government agreed to free more than 50 political prisoners.

Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa was also considered for the prize, as was Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group of former soldiers who campaign against abuses committed by the military in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The $70,000 Sakharov Prize was named after the late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and was first awarded in 1988. Farinas is the third Cuban to win the award in the past decade.

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