.- The European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to a 48-year-old Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, a leader for human rights in Cuba.
Farinas has spent the past 11 years in jail as a prisoner of conscience.
The decision to select Farinas was made by the leaders of the parliamentary groups and was announced by the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek.
The European People’s Party and the group European Conservatives and Reformists pushed for his selection, arguing that his struggle “is and will continue to be an example for all those who struggle for freedom and democracy.”
A doctor in psychology and a journalist, Farinas has carried out 23 hunger strikes throughout his life to protest the censorship and the violation of human rights in Cuba.
He began his latest hunger strike in February 2010 after the death of fellow dissident Orlando Zapata. Farinas' declining health forced him to end the strike 135 days later, after the government announced that 52 political prisoners would be released thanks to mediation by the Catholic Church.
The other two candidates for the prize were the Israeli NGO, Breaking the Silence, and Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa.
Since 1988 the European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize each year to individuals or organizations for their fight against injustice and oppression in the world.