The European parliament has bestowed its top human rights prize to Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, who was represented by an empty chair at the award ceremony.
Farinas was unable to collect his prize in Strasbourg, France, as the Cuban government did not give him permission to make the trip.
Speaking in Santa Carla, in Cuba, ahead of the ceremony, Farinas said that would not prevent him and other activists for continuing to stand up for individual rights.
"I think that if the Cuban government thinks that we are going to decrease our activities because of this refusal, it is mistaken," Farinas was quoted as saying by Reuters. "We will continue exercising our individual freedom even if it costs us jail, even if it costs us our lives, and we will continue to denounce all the wrong that we believe the Cuban government is doing inside or outside our country."
Farinas's prolonged hunger strike to protest the plight of political prisoners in Cuba earlier this year is believed to have pressured Cuban authorities to authorize the release of 52 prisoners in an unprecedented deal brokered by the Catholic Church.
The European Parliament awarded Farinas the Sakharov prize, named for late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, in October. The prize, which has been awarded since 1988, includes 50,000 euros ($67,000).
It marks the second time in a week there has been an empty chair at an international rights prize ceremony, after jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia
at a ceremony in Oslo last week.compiled from media and agency reports