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Dissident Cuban journalist wins European Parliament award

Guillermo Fariñas has been awarded the Sakharov human rights prize.

Guillermo Fariñas, a Cuban journalist whose hunger-strikes for free speech have led to the freeing of jailed dissidents in the country, was on Thursday announced winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize.

The 48-year old journalist is reported to have spent more than a decade of his life in prison and carried out 23 hunger strikes in protest against the Fidel Castro-led Communist government.

A 135-day hunger strike by Fariñas in July, which is said to have nearly resulted in his death, compelled the government to release dozens of political prisoners.

On receiving news of the award, Fariñas dedicated it to the people of Cuba fighting "to get out of this dictatorship."

The European parliamentarians who nominated the journalist for the prize praised him as a "shining example for all defenders of freedom and democracy."

The award comes just four days before an EU foreign ministers' meet in Luxembourg to consider whether to normalise their relations with Cuba, which the EU has subject to diplomatic measures on questions of human rights.