Connect to share and comment

Cuban dissident women pick up EU prize eight years later

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Cuba's "Ladies in White," who fought for the release of jailed Cuban dissidents, on Tuesday picked up the EU's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize -- eight years after winning the award.

Five members of the group -- known in Spanish as "The Damas de Blanco" -- were finally able to travel to Brussels to accept the 2005 Sakharov award from the hands of European Parliament president Martin Schulz.

"You are the symbol of resistance against the Cuban government, and thousands and thousands of |Cubans support you inside and outside the country," Schulz said.

The group was founded by the wives, sisters, mothers and friends of 75 jailed Cuban activists rounded up and sentenced to long prison terms in 2003.

The European Parliament has three times handed the award to Cubans fighting to defend human rights -- but this was the first time Cubans had been able to accept it in person.

In 2010, an empty chair draped in a Cuban flag symbolised Havana's refusal to allow dissident Guillermo Farinas to pick up the Sakharov prize.

In 2002 the honour went to dissident Oswaldo Paya, who last year died in a car crash. The US had called for a probe into the accident.

The five women however were able to travel to Europe thanks to the abolition of exit permits by Havana in January.

Past winners of the 50,000-euro (64,150-dollar) award -- named after late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov -- include Nelson Mandela, Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi and former UN chief Kofi Annan.

Dressed in white, the women march in silence in Havana each Sunday and are often detained. They say however that the protests have paid off after all 75 prisoners were released.

They continue to campaign demanding that the convictions of the 75 be officially overturned. Of the 75, a few remain in Cuba but the majority have moved to Spain after an offer by the Madrid government.

ccr/rm

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130423/cuban-dissident-women-pick-eu-prize-eight-years-later