BREAKING NEWS: Havana, Cuba: Cuban Dissident Guillermo Farinas Detained By Authorities: UPDATED

27 Jan

LATEST NEWS UPDATE:

Police have again arrested Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, the 2010 Sakharov rights prize winner, one day after he was detained for seven hours, his mother told AFP.

Farinas was detained with around 10 other political activists Enlarge photo

The high-profile dissident was detained with around 10 other political activists, his mother Alicia Hernandez said.

“He’s been detained,” said Hernandez, 75, speaking by phone from the central city of Santa Clara, 280 kilometers (175 miles) east of Havana, where she lives with Farinas.

“I sent him a coat and some medicine with his uncle. But I expect that, like yesterday, he will be released soon,” she said.

Farinas went on a 135-day hunger strike last year to draw attention to the challenges faced by dissidents of the Americas’ only one-party communist regime.

The Sakharov prize winner was also detained Wednesday afternoon and released around midnight. He said police did not mistreat him.

“The police wanted us to sign a statement recognizing that we presented a ‘potentially criminal danger to society,’ but we didn’t do it. After three of these statements, they can take you to trial,” Farinas said upon his release.

His release came as the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said it expected human rights to “deteriorate” this year in Cuba. The group said 2010 was “very adverse” despite the release of political prisoners.

Some 105 political prisoners remain in the Caribbean nation — down from 201 in January 2010, according to CCDHRN chief Elizardo Sanchez.

Farinas, now 49, was awarded the Sakharov prize in October after his latest hunger strike, his 23rd, following the February death of fellow dissident Orlando Zapata.

He ended the protest when President Raul Castro authorized the release of 52 political prisoners — out of a group of 75 arrested in 2003 — on the heels of talks with senior Roman Catholic Church clerics in Havana.

The regime has released 41 of them so far; the 11 remaining have declined an offer to go into exile in Spain.

The Cuban government, which skirts the issue in its official media outlets, still denies holding any political prisoners; it says they are mercenaries in the pay of the United States.

CCDHRN, a group considered illegal but tolerated by the regime, said Cuba has the most prisoners of conscience in the Americas — 19. The rights group recorded 2,074 arbitrary arrests for political motives last year, most of them lasting just hours or days, up from 870 in 2009.

“In the hands of a handful of octogenarian and erratic leaders who have always undervalued the crucial importance of civil rights, Cuba seems to be entering a new phase in its ‘trip to nowhere,'” it added.

On December 15, an empty chair draped in a Cuban flag symbolized Havana’s refusal to allow Farinas to pick up his prestigious Sakharov rights prize in Strasbourg.

“I accept the prize… because I feel I am a tiny part of the rebellious spirit of this people I am proud to belong to,” Farinas said in a recorded message to the European Parliament that gave him the award.

He urged Europeans at the time to fight for the release of Cuba’s political prisoners, help end anti-opposition attacks and call for the creation of opposition parties and trade unions.

Farinas was the third Cuban to receive the Sakharov prize, after dissident activist Oswaldo Paya in 2002 and the 2005 award to the Ladies in White, a group of women whose dissident husbands are jailed.

A former soldier and supporter of Fidel Castro’s revolution, Farinas distanced himself from the regime in 1989 when he opposed the execution of general Arnaldo Ochoa, who was accused of drug trafficking.

He was jailed three times before Wednesday’s arrest.

————–

Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, the 2010 Sakharov rights prize winner, has been arrested and police are holding him in the central city of Santa Clara, his mother and dissidents said Wednesday.

Farinas went on a high-profile hunger strike last year Enlarge photo

“I spoke with him, and he told me that he is under arrest in the third police unit in Santa Clara, and then he hung up,” his mother Alicia Hernandez said by phone from the city located some 240 kilometers (150 miles) east of Havana.

Elizardo Sanchez, of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said the psychologist who went on a high-profile hunger strike last year was detained with 15 other opponents of the Americas’ only one-party communist regime.

On December 15, an empty chair draped in a Cuban flag symbolized Havana’s refusal to allow Farinas to pick up his prestigious Sakharov rights prize in Strasbourg.

In a recorded message to the European Parliament which gave him the award, left standing on the empty chair, Farinas signed off as “a psychologist, librarian, independent journalist, three-time political prisoner”.

“I accept the prize,” he said, “because I feel I am a tiny part of the rebellious spirit of this people I am proud to belong to.”

The statement, in which the 48-year-old dissident repeatedly slammed the Cuban regime as “totalitarian,” “autocratic” and “savage,” brought the more than 700 members of the parliament to their feet in resounding applause.

“This empty chair,” said parliament president Jerzy Buzek, “demonstrates just how much this award was necessary.”

But the former Polish premier said there was hope for Cuba in the history of eastern Europe. “History repeats itself. In my country everything changed, and that is a reason to be optimistic.

“Our community of democratic nations today send a strong signal to Cuba,” he said.

Farinas, who was unable to travel to the French city that houses the parliament when authorities failed to deliver an exit visa, urged Europeans to fight for the release of Cuba’s political prisoners, help end anti-opposition attacks and call for the creation of opposition parties and trade unions.

Farinas was nominated for the prize in October after staging a 135-day hunger strike, his 23rd, following the February death of fellow dissident Orlando Zapata.

He ended the protest when President Raul Castro authorized the release of 52 political prisoners on the heels of talks with senior Roman Catholic Church clerics in Havana.

In fields and city streets, Cuba embraces change

Cubans enticed, bewildered by economic opening

Cuban dissident Farinas released after detention

Farinas was detained with around 10 other political activists Enlarge photo

Farinas was awarded the Sakharov prize after his latest hunger

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