Friday, August 28, 2009

EU concerns over dissident anger Cuba

EU concerns over dissident anger Cuba
Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:24pm EDT
By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - Diplomats from European Union countries angered Cuba
on Thursday when they went to the home of a jailed dissident to express
their concern about the case and what they view as government efforts to
quell dissent.

Their visit signaled that despite improved relations with Cuba, the EU
still has reservations about the communist government's treatment of

Cuba's government reacted swiftly, summoning ambassadors or charges
d'affaires from the five countries whose diplomats made the visit --
Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Germany and Britain -- to say they had
threatened recently renewed EU-Cuba dialogue.

"The message was of criticism about the visit, meddling in Cuban
internal affairs and putting at risk the political dialogue. It was a
pretty strong move," said a European diplomat.

The five diplomats had met with Yusnaimy Jorge Soca, the wife of Cuban
physician Darsi Ferrer who has been imprisoned since July 21 on charges
he bought two bags of cement on the black market and verbally assaulted
a neighbor.

No trial date has been set for Ferrer, 39, who has organized walks along
Havana's seaside boulevard, the Malecon, and in front of local UNESCO
offices to support human rights.

Angry mobs attacked his small group at the UNESCO walks in 2006 and 2007.

His wife, pointing to concrete ceiling beams with gaping holes in the
living room of their cramped home, told reporters a friend had given
them cement to make repairs.

"My husband is not in prison for two bags of cement," she said. "He's in
prison for dreaming."

Swedish diplomat Ingemar Cederberg, speaking on behalf of the EU group,
said the case looked suspiciously like a political prosecution hidden
behind trumped-up criminal charges and needed to be "clarified."

"There's a question mark when it comes to this arrest," Cederberg said.
"There are accusations that belong to the category of common crime, not
really political, and (our visit) is a way of showing our interest that
the case should advance and get clarified."

Sweden currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

The government has been accused by the Cuban Commission on Human Rights,
a group that tracks political prisoners, of using short detentions to
quell dissent.

Cuba views dissidents as mercenaries working on behalf of its long-time
enemy the United States, which openly supports opposition groups.


Cederberg said there were several recent cases of government opponents
being jailed on nonpolitical


Cuba may be "trying to invent something new and that is very worrying,"
he said.

"We have given signals (to Cuba) on this case and (expressed) concern in
general about the situation," he said.

Ferrer's wife said she believed he was arrested because the Cuban
government feared his Malecon walks could provoke wider protests amid
the country's economic crisis.

"All this is theater by state security," she said.

The EU, which has 27 member nations, lifted diplomatic sanctions and
re-established cooperation with Cuba last year after a five-year rift
over Cuban political prisoners.

But the EU said it would review Cuba's human rights situation annually.

Cuba and the EU resumed political dialogue in May, when Cuban Foreign
Minister Bruno Rodriguez said the country has no political prisoners
because all inmates had undergone due legal process.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights said in a recent report that there
were 208 political prisoners on the island.

Another European diplomat said the EU did not view Thursday's row as a
threat to warmer EU-Cuba relations.

"The EU has a dialogue with Cuba and we very much want it to continue,"
he said. "In our view, (the visit) was very much in line with what we're
doing here. We don't see it as meddling in Cuban internal or legal affairs."

(Editing by Pascal Fletcher and John O'Callaghan)

EU concerns over dissident anger Cuba | International | Reuters (27
August 2009)

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