Wed, Nov 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Presidential Medal of Freedom given to Cuban dissident

AFP , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush awarded his top honor to the Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet on Monday, handing the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the political prisoner's family.

"To the Cuban dictatorship, Dr Biscet is a `dangerous man.' He is dangerous in the same way that Martin Luther King, Jr and Gandhi were dangerous," Bush said at the White House award ceremony.

"He is a man of peace, a man of truth and a man of faith," he said, before handing the medal -- the highest honor a US president can grant a civilian -- to Biscet's son, Yan Valdes.

Biscet, a medical doctor, founded a human rights group and was given a 25-year jail sentence in 1999 by the regime of Fidel Castro for his activities. Bush called Biscet "a great man with a mighty heart."

"For speaking the truth Dr Biscet has endured repeated harassment, beatings and detentions," Bush said. "His example is a rebuke to the tyrants and secret police of a regime whose day is passing."

Bush also gave the award to Harper Lee, author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

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