Some Media is Now Responding
What a surprise some mention of the "Ladies in White" and how they can not leave the country to receive the award.
HAVANA (Reuters) - The Cuban government is not allowing members of Cuba's "Ladies in White" opposition movement to travel to Strasbourg to receive the EU's top human rights prize, the women said on Tuesday.
For the past two years, the women dressed in white have marched in silence every Sunday along a Havana avenue to demand the release of their husbands and sons who are political dissidents jailed by President Fidel Castro's government.
The Cuban women are joint winners of the 2005 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, which will be awarded at a ceremony in the European Parliament on Wednesday.
The other winners are the Nigerian human rights lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim and the Paris-based press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders.
But the five "Ladies in White" selected to receive the prize said Cuba's communist government had not given them exit permits in time to travel to Europe.
"Immigration authorities have my passport and told me I would get it back on Dec. 30 when I would know if I could leave," said Julia Nunez, wife of pro-democracy activist Adolfo Fernandez.
Fernandez was jailed in a March 2003 crackdown on growing opposition to Castro's 46-year rule. He was accused of plotting with the United States to overthrow Cuba's one-party state and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
"The EU as a whole deplores the fact that they cannot go to receive the Sakharov award," said Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, the European Commission's charge d'affaires in Havana.
"This will not affect the women's ability to continue their peaceful protest against the detention of their relatives," he said.
The Ladies in White expected the European Parliament to send a delegation to hand them the prize in Cuba.
"We will continue denouncing abuses," Nunez said.
The prize, named after former Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded annually to a person or group that has contributed significantly to human rights.