Thursday, August 27, 2009

EU diplomats say Cuba dissident case "worrying"

EU diplomats say Cuba dissident case "worrying"
Thu Aug 27, 2009 4:05pm EDT
By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - Diplomats from European Union countries went to the
home of a jailed Cuban dissident on Thursday to express their concern
about the case and what they view as ongoing efforts by island
authorities to quell dissent.

Their visit also signaled that despite improved relations with Cuba, the
EU still has reservations about its treatment of government opponents.

Representatives from Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Germany and Britain 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 at their
home, told reporters a friend had given them cement to make repairs to
their cramped and crumbling home.

"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," he said.

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 where government
opponents were jailed on non-political charges.

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 current 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.

"It's an ongoing process. We have shown our concern when it comes to
human rights and we're going to continue (doing) that," Cederberg said.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told the EU in a May meeting that
Cuba has no political prisoners because all Cuban 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.

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Vicki Allen)

EU diplomats say Cuba dissident case worrying | International | Reuters
(27 August 2009)

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