Cuban independent journalist and political dissident Guillermo Fariñas has become the latest international figure to win Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Unfortunately the Cuban authorities barred him from attending and his place was taken symbolically by an empty Chair. Nevertheless we were able to speak to him by phone from Cuba where he affirmed his determination to resist the Cuban regime. In this focus we carry that interview and look at other aspects of the prize.
The timing of the award (which is usually formally given in the December Parliamentary Session) is to coincide with the anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was signed on 10 December in 1948. The prize is named after Soviet scientist Andrei Sakharov who was internally exiled in the Soviet Union for his opposition to the USSR's nuclear programme and its repressive policies. He was later elected a member of the free Russian Parliament after the Soviet Union had collapsed.
Mr Fariñas has conducted 23 hunger strikes over the years to protest against the Cuban regime and censorship in Cuba. He was nominated by the European People's Party (EPP), the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) and by Edvard Kožušník and 91 other MEPs. The final award came after he received a majority of the votes cast.