World

Barred by Cuba, Fariñas Accepts Sakharov Prize Via Video

An empty chair bearing the Cuban flag and representing Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, is seen before European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek, back right, awarded The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Farinas in his absence, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010. The European Union parliament has criticized Cuba for not allowing a dissident protester to travel to collect its biggest human rights award. (AP Photo/Christian Lutz)

An empty chair bearing the Cuban flag and representing Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, is seen before European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek, back right, awarded The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Farinas in his absence, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010. The European Union parliament has criticized Cuba for not allowing a dissident protester to travel to collect its biggest human rights award. (AP Photo/Christian Lutz)  (AP2010)

Guillermo Fariñas used a video address at Wednesday's award of the Sakharov human rights prize to call for the release of political prisoners on the island and for the Cuban government to end attacks on the opposition.

Fariñas was not allowed by the Cuban government to travel to receive the EU's highest human rights prize in person in Strasbourg, France.

Fariñas, a 48-year-old psychologist and freelance journalist, said the travel ban was "irrefutable testimony to the fact that unfortunately nothing has changed (in Cuba)."

An empty chair — set out for him — sat in the middle of the legislature with a Cuban flag draped over it. EU Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said it signified a "sad day" on the annual occasion when the bloc wants to laud a stirring example of bravery in the face of human rights oppression.

Farinas won the Sakharov prize in October after his 134-day hunger strike helped draw attention to the plight of activists, opposition leaders and social critics in Cuban jails.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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