Cuban Dissident Awarded Medal of Freedom

President Bush awarded the Medal of Freedom Monday to eight people, including one who is imprisoned.

Oscar Biscet is the most prominent political prisoner in Cuba.

The dissident's views are also closely aligned with the Bush administration's position – which is not the criteria for being recognized.

The Medal of Freedom was established by President Truman in 1945 to recognize civilians for their efforts during World War II. The award was reinstated by President Kennedy in 1963 to honor distinguished service.

Biscet's opposition to abortion, which is practiced widely in Cuba, makes him a hero to the pro-life movement.

Biscet also agrees with the Bush administration that the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba should be maintained until there's major democratic change on the island. That position sets him apart from Cuban dissidents with more moderate views.

He is a genuine political prisoner — jailed for his defiant opposition to Fidel Castro's regime.

Biscet espouses non-violence and, as an Afro-Cuban, he counts human rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. among his heroes along with Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama.

In announcing that he would be awarded a Medal of Freedom, the White House called Biscet "a champion in the fight against tyranny and oppression."

The Cuban government has not yet reported that Biscet is being so honored.

Trained as a physician, Biscet was expelled from the Cuban health system in 1999 after staging a protest against the government's medical policies, which he said included forcing women to have abortions.

Arrested that year, he was sentenced to three years in prison for "inciting delinquent behavior," and "insulting the symbols of the homeland." (He flew the Cuban flag upside down to symbolize his country's distress.)

Biscet was released in November 2002, but arrested again a month later after meeting with James Cason, the ranking U.S. diplomat in Cuba, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Fidel Castro denounced Biscet by name as "a counter-revolutionary ex-convict who exchanges letters with President Bush."

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