Cuban women opposition prevented from traveling to receive EU rights prize

Members of a Cuban women's opposition movement were prevented by the Cuban government from traveling to Strasbourg to receive the EU's human rights prize, officials said Tuesday. Cuba's "Ladies in White" movement, Nigerian human rights lawyer Hauwa Abraham and the international media organization Reporters without Borders are joint winners of the 2005 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

"The Cuban authorities made it technically impossible for the Ladies in White to attend the ceremony," said parliament spokeswoman Maria Andres, adding that the activists were unable to fulfill the Cuban government's administrative requirements for issuing a travel permit. The EU assembly was now preparing to send a delegation to Havana to hand the prize over there, officials said. "We'll do our utmost to make sure that the Sakharov Prize can be awarded in Havana by a very high representative of the European Parliament," said Hans-Gert Poettering, chairman of the European People's Party, the assembly's largest group.

The prize, named after a former Soviet dissident, is awarded annually to the person or group who are judged to have made a particular achievement in the field of human rights, protecting minorities, defense of international cooperation or promotion of democracy and the rule of law. I.L.

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