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Cuban dissident unable to accept prize

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
Cuban opposition activist and Sakharov Prize winner Guillermo Farinas holds a press conference on December 7 in Havana.
Cuban opposition activist and Sakharov Prize winner Guillermo Farinas holds a press conference on December 7 in Havana.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Farinas will be awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought
  • He's gone on more than 20 hunger strikes
  • The Cuban government has not issued an exit visa to Farinas
RELATED TOPICS
  • Cuba
  • Guillermo Farinas

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- An empty chair will represent Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas Wednesday when the European Parliament awards him a top human rights prize.

As of Tuesday, Farinas had not received the exit visa required by the Cuban government in order to travel abroad. The government did not immediately comment.

The European Parliament said in a statement Tuesday that Farinas would send a recorded speech for the awards ceremony in Strasbourg, France.

Farinas was named the winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in October. The award includes a 50,000 euro ($66,975) prize, according to the European Parliament web site.

He won because he was "ready to sacrifice and risk his own health and life as a means of pressure to achieve change in Cuba," said European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek in a statement.

Farinas endured a 135-day hunger strike earlier this year, demanding the release of political prisoners. He was eventually hospitalized and accepted intravenous liquids, but refused to eat. The activist has gone on more than 20 hunger strikes.

He called off his latest strike when Cuba began to release jailed dissidents in July as part of an agreement with the Catholic Church and Spain.

More than 50 political prisoners have since been released, although the vast majority have agreed to leave the island and live in exile.

Cuba says the dissidents were receiving money from Washington to destabilize the government.

In Farinas' case, state media has also pointed out that the state footed the bill for his lengthy hospital stay.