Earlier this week, Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas was awarded the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Mr. Fariñas, however, was unable to accept the award in person after Cuban authorities denied him papers to leave the country. In his place, the presenters of the Sakharov Prize left Mr. Fariñas chair empty with just a Cuban flag draped over it and his prize.
The Sakharov Prize is awarded to each year to “exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.” In awarding this year’s prize to Mr. Fariñas in absentia, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek noted that the purpose of the prize was to eliminate exactly the situations that prevented Mr. Fariñas from traveling to the award ceremony. “Even though activists like Guillermo Fariñas are persecuted and are imprisoned, their voice cannot be silenced. The role of the European Parliament is to amplify that voice,” President Buzek said.
Mr. Fariñas was able to address the attendees at the award ceremony through a recorded video message in which he urged the EU to “not allow themselves to be deceived by the siren songs of a cruel regime practicing ‘wild communism.’”
This year’s award to Mr. Fariñas marks the third time in the past eight years that the award has gone to Cuban citizens. Mr. Oswaldo José Payá Sariñas won the prize in 2002 and the Ladies in White won the award in 2005.