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Cuban dissident wins European Parliament's Sakharov Prize

European Parliament

The European Parliament has awarded its Sakharov human rights prize to Guillermo Fariñas Hernandez, the Cuban dissident whose four-month hunger strike ultimately led to the release of numerous political prisoners in Cuba, report Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Human Rights Watch.

Fariñas, a psychologist, journalist and former soldier, ended a hunger strike in July after the Cuban government agreed to release 52 political prisoners.

"Fariñas's hunger strike made it impossible for the world to ignore the dissidents imprisoned in Cuba," said Human Rights Watch. "The Sakharov prize highlights Cuba's responsibility to free every last political prisoner and dismantle the laws that punish dissent."

During his campaign for human rights he has staged more than 20 hunger strikes and spent more than 11 years in prison.

Speaking to the BBC, Fariñas said he thought the honour could make his campaign for greater freedom in Cuba more difficult. "Anyone who is familiar with the Cuban regime understands that as a dissident becomes more well known the attacks against him become more sophisticated, more bloody and more inhuman," he said.

The IFEX members are calling on the Cuban government to allow Fariñas to receive the award in person in December and to release all remaining political prisoners, estimated to be around 100.

Named after former Russian physicist and human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov, the 50,000 Euro (US$68,800) award is given each year to an exceptional individual or organisation fighting "to protect freedom of thought and expression against intolerance, fanaticism and hatred." This marks the third time that the award has been made to Cuban dissidents since it was first presented in 1988.

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