Cuban authorities detained leading dissident Guillermo Farinas and 21 other activists Thursday in the city of Santa Clara, according to members of his family and the opposition.
The winner of the Sakharov prize – the European parliament’s top human rights award – was arrested in the morning along with the others as he was heading to a meeting, Farinas’ mother Alicia Hernandez told AFP by telephone.
The activists were preparing to discuss a document titled, “Citizen demand for another Cuba,” added opposition activist Ramon Jimenez.
“In total, 22 opponents, including Farinas, were driven to different Santa Clara police stations,” he said.
Farinas, a 50-year-old psychologist known for having staged numerous hunger strikes, had already been detained in Santa Clara from August 23 to 25 for an altercation with police.
Prior to that, he was arrested July 24 along with about 50 others at the funeral of fellow activist Oswaldo Paya, who was killed in a car accident.
According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an organization that is banned but tolerated, 533 arbitrary detentions “for political motives” were registered in September, marking an upward trend.
Farinas won the Sakharov prize in 2010 after his 135-day hunger strike to press for the release of political prisoners.
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.
All opposition is illegal in Cuba and the communist government considers dissidents to be “mercenaries” in the pay of its top foe, the United States.
Cuba has been led by Raul Castro since 2006, when he assumed power from his ailing brother Fidel.