By WILL WEISSERT | The Associated Press
September 28, 2007
HAVANA - A leading government critic and six other dissidents delivered
a letter to authorities Thursday demanding the release of all Cuban
political prisoners, then waited outside the Ministry of Justice for a
Though small, the protest was unusual for a country where citizens can
file complaints with top officials but rarely wait in public for
Veteran opposition leader Martha Beatriz Roque said at least 13
dissidents who attempted to travel to Havana and participate in a march
to the ministry were detained. She said she did not have a complete list
of names, however, and there was no way to confirm the arrests. First
standing in front of the ministry building and later sitting in the
shade on a curb nearby, Roque said she and others would remain "until
they give us an answer."
Their letter, addressed to Justice Minister Maria Esther Reus, said any
Cubans who dare to "think differently are in prison and have to be
liberated." It accused authorities of beating, torturing and depriving
political prisoners of food.
Small, peaceful opposition protests have provoked standoffs with
government supporters in the past, but all was calm outside the ministry
In 2005, wives of imprisoned dissidents stayed overnight outside Cuban
leader Fidel Castro's office in Revolution Plaza after submitting a
letter demanding that his government respect their right to peaceful
protest. That demonstration ended peacefully as well.
Since the 81-year-old Castro ceded power last year in favor of a
provisional government headed by his younger brother, Raul, the number
of Cuban political prisoners has dropped more than 20 percent but still
tops 200, according to the Havana-based Cuban Commission for Human
Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent group that tracks
prisoners of conscience.
That figure includes 13 people who have been released on medical parole,
including Roque herself. The commission, which is not recognized by
Cuba's government, says it continues to list them because they could be
returned to prison at any time for parole violations.