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Award-winning Cuban dissident detained

/ 10:12 AM August 25, 2012

Guillermo Farinas. AFP file photo

HAVANA – Leading Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas was arrested by police after an argument with agents guarding his home, his mother and activists said Friday.

Farinas, who has gone on hunger strike about two dozen times against the regime, was arrested late Thursday in front of his home in the central city of Santa Clara, his mother Alicia Hernandez told AFP.

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“He went to talk to the patrol… and then they had an argument and took him into custody,” she said.

Elizardo Sanchez, head of the banned but tolerated Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said Farinas wanted to speak to the agents because “the laptop of one of the members of his organization had apparently gone missing.”

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Farinas, 50, was last arrested on July 24 along with about 50 others at the funeral of fellow activist Oswaldo Paya, who was killed in a car accident.

Hernandez said she was “worried” for her son due the poor sanitary conditions of police stations amid outbreaks of cholera and dengue on the communist island.

Farinas won the Sakharov prize — the European parliament’s top human rights award — 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.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, another dissident, was also arrested Thursday at his home in the southwestern town of Palmarito, Sanchez said.

He noted that dissidents are usually arrested for several hours or several days by the government of Raul Castro, who took over in 2006 from his ailing brother Fidel.

In July, 406 dissidents were arrested, according to Sanchez’s group. 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.

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