Raúl Castro urged to free 8 dissidents
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
The U.S. State Department and Amnesty International have urged Cuba to
immediately release eight dissidents detained during peaceful protests
and threatened with prosecutions.
A State Department spokesperson also said that the Raúl Castro
government should release all political prisoners and not just the 52
that it has promised to free by October.
The lengthy detentions of the eight -- arrested in two groups of five
and three -- have sparked concern that Castro is getting tougher with
critics. In recent years, the government has detained dissidents for
brief periods, to intimidate them and block their activities, rather
than bring them to trial.
Amnesty International urged Cuba to free the group of five jailed since
Aug. 12 ``immediately and unconditionally, unless they are to be charged
with an internationally recognized criminal offence and tried according
to international standards for fair trial.''
Authorities also should ``cease the harassment, intimidation and
persecution of citizens who seek to peacefully exercise their right to
freedom of expression, assembly and association,'' the London-based
group said late Wednesday.
The five members of the Youths for Democracy movement -- Enyor Díaz
Allen, Francisco Manzanet Ortiz, Roberto González Pelegrín and brothers
Néstor and Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina -- were seized in eastern Baracoa
after a peaceful protest against the arrests of two other members.
They have not had access to a lawyer and have been told they will be
charged with ``public disorder,'' according to Amnesty International.
State Department spokesperson Virginia Staab meanwhile urged Cuba to
free the other three dissidents jailed since they read an
anti-government statement Aug. 16 at the University of Havana.
``If Cuban government officials are serious in their public statements
that there will be no more political prisoners in Cuba, we expect these
activists to be release immediately,'' she said.
The three -- Michel Irois Rodríguez, Luis Enrique Labrador Díaz and
Eduardo Pérez Flores -- are also refusing food to demand their freedom,
said the Directorate.