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Cuba's opposition group Ladies in White finally collects prize awarded in 2005

Members of the Cuban opposition group Ladies in White have finally collected their Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which was awarded in 2005.

Ladies in White collect prizeEnlarge
(L to R) Cuban Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) Laura Maria Labrada Pollan, Belkis Cantillo Ramirez, Elena Larrinaga and Blanca Reyes Castanon hold hands at the European Parliament in Brussels on April 23, 2013. Over seven years after they were awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament, they were able to receive their award. (THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Members of the Cuban opposition group Ladies in White have finally collected their Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which was awarded in 2005.

The group had to hold off on collecting its prize in Brussels until now because Cuba had barred members from leaving the communist-run country. Because exit permits were abolished by the Cuban government in January, the women were able to make the trip to Europe.

"No dictatorship in the world will be able to stop democracy in the long run," European Parliament President Martin Schulz said at the award ceremony in Brussels. "No people can be oppressed forever."

Group cofounder Berta Soler, who attended Tuesday’s ceremony with several other members, said the work in their country was not yet over.

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"We need a Cuba where there is proper freedom and human rights," she said, urging "real reforms, not just cosmetic change."

The Ladies in White were given the prize for their campaign to free 75 jailed dissidents.

The women in the group meet every Sunday to pray at the Santa Rita church in Havana, and the Ladies in White movement started as a spontaneous political protest.

The movement was first known as the Black Spring when it began in May 2003. The 75 dissidents involved included poets, doctors, journalists and activists, who were all given between 15 and 28 years in prison for allegedly threatening "the security of the State."

While some have been exiled and others have been released due to health issues, their cases all remain legally active.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/cuba/130423/cubas-opposition-group-ladies-in-white-finally-collects-prize