An empty chair will serve as a symbol of Cuba's refusal to allow one of its most prominent dissidents, Guillermo Fariñas, to travel to Europe to collect a prestigious human rights award, said European Union officials on Tuesday.
The European Union parliament has criticized Cuba for not allowing a dissident protester to travel to collect its biggest human rights award.
EU Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said that Fariñas, whose 134-day hunger strike helped draw attention to the plight of Cuban political dissidents, would be represented by the empty chair at the midweek ceremony to award the Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought.
On Dec. 10, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony also included an empty chair to represent the winner, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year sentence in China on subversion charges for calling for changes to Beijing's one-party communist system.
Joseph Daul, a member of the European parliament from France, says his absence "means that nothing has changed in Cuba."
Previous winners of the prize include Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. It was awarded twice before to Cubans: in 2002 to pro-democracy activist Oswaldo Paya and in 2005 to a dissident group, Ladies in White.
This story is based on reporting by the Associated Press.