Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas has been declared the winner of the 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The announcement was made on Thursday by European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek following a decision by the EP's political group leaders. Mr Fariñas will be invited to attend the award ceremony on 15 December in Strasbourg.
"Guillermo Fariñas was ready to sacrifice and risk his own health and life as a means of pressure to achieve change in Cuba", said Mr Buzek when announcing the winner today in plenary.
"I hope to hand over the award to him in person, here in Strasbourg, in December, which would be a tremendous moment for the European Parliament and for all Cuban prisoners of conscience. I sincerely hope that, together with Guillermo Fariñas, the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), another Cuban Sakharov laureate from 2005, will also be able to collect their Sakharov Prize in person". The president repeatedly calls, on behalf of the European Parliament, for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Cuba.
Guillermo Fariñas, aged 48, was nominated in the name of all those who fight in Cuba for freedom and human rights. He is a doctor of psychology, an independent journalist and a political dissident. He has conducted 23 hunger strikes over the years "not in his own favour but in order to defend his compatriots" said José Ignacio Salafranca (EPP, ES). Mr Fariñas ended his 135 day hunger strike on 8 July 2010 after the Havana government announced the release of 52 political prisoners following mediation by the Catholic Church.
A supporter of non-violence and someone who dared to denounce the Castro regime, "Guillermo Fariñas is a symbol in the struggle against the imprisonment of political opponents", according to the MEPs who nominated him. "Because he is defending dignity and democracy in his country, he is the ideal candidate for the Sakharov Prize", they argue.
Mr Fariñas was nominated by Joseph Daul, José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, Jaime Mayor Oreja, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa and Francisco José Millán Mon on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party (EPP), by the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) and by Edvard Kožušník and 91 other MEPs.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, was established in December 1988 by the European Parliament as a means to honour individuals or organisations who dedicate their lives to the defence of human rights and freedoms, particularly the right to freedom of expression.