The 2010 Sakharov Prize has been awarded to Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas. The winner was announced by EP President Jerzy Buzek in Strasbourg on Thursday. Nominated for all who fight in Cuba for freedom and human rights, the 48-year-old doctor of psychology will be invited to receive the €50,000 prize in Strasbourg on 15 December.
Mr Buzek said, "Guillermo Fariñas was ready to sacrifice and risk his own health and life as a means of pressure to achieve change in Cuba. 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."
He said that he hoped that Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), the 2005 Sakharov laureate, also from Cuba, would also be able to collect their Sakharov Prize in person.
Fariñas' fight for freedom of expression and internet
Guillermo Fariñas, a former soldier, joined the opposition in 1989, giving up his membership of the Young Communist League. A qualified psychologist and journalist, he set up the "Cubanacán Press", an independent press agency, with a view to raising awareness in the rest of the world about the fate of political prisoners in Cuba. The agency has now been closed down.
A proponent of non-violence, he has spent years in prison and has chosen the hunger strike as a way of raising awareness about oppression in Cuba. He went on hunger strike in 2006 to protest against internet censorship, calling for freedom of access to the internet for all, for which he was awarded the Reporters Without Borders Cyber-Freedom Prize in 2006.
Near death after a recent hunger strike
In July Mr Fariñas ended a hunger strike that began 24 February one day after the death – condemned by the EP – of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner of conscience, who died after a 3-month hunger strike. Doctors said Mr Fariñas - who has said he is ready to die in the struggle against censorship in Cuba - had been near death.
"Guillermo Fariñas’ struggle has been – and still is – a shining example for all defenders of freedom and democracy," MEPs backing his nomination said.
This is the 3rd time the EP has given the prize to Cuban dissidents, following Ladies in White and Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas in 2002.