Cuba 'Bars Women from Prize Trip'
By Stephen Gibbs
Havana - A group of Cuban women say they have been barred by their government from travelling to Europe to collect a prestigious human rights award.
The group, known as the Ladies in White, are joint winners of this year's Sakharov prize for freedom of thought.
For the last two years the women, who are relatives of jailed dissidents, have staged a weekly protest march.
They have been invited to Strasbourg by the European Parliament to receive the award, to be presented on Wednesday.
The other winners are Nigerian human rights lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim and Paris-based Reporters without Borders.
Like all Cubans who wish to travel, the Ladies in White had to first get specific permission from the Cuban authorities. The women say they applied weeks ago.
They say their requests were not officially turned down; instead, it was indicated to them that no decision on their applications would be made until well after the Strasbourg ceremony had taken place.
Miriam Leiva, one of the group who was intending to travel, said she is disappointed but not surprised.
"The government does with our lives whatever it wishes," she said.
"They control whether we can travel abroad, they won't allow any opinion other than theirs and we are very peaceful people and we have been just striving for our rights."
Three years ago another Cuban dissident, Oswaldo Paya, won the same award.
He was allowed to leave the country to collect it.
But a few months after his return, Cuba arrested, tried and jailed 75 dissidents accusing them of being mercenaries in the pay of the US government.
The Ladies in White are relatives of those and other imprisoned dissidents.
They say that their demonstrations will continue.
They have also called on the EU to send a delegation to Cuba to present their award.