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Amnesty cuba dissidents { April 2 2003 }

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Amnesty Wants Answers from Cuba on Dissidents
Wed April 2, 2003 10:03 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Human rights group Amnesty International demanded answers from Cuba on Thursday after the communist government in Havana carried out its biggest crackdown on dissidents in a decade.
In a report entitled "Cuba: Massive crackdown on dissent," Amnesty said it believed Cuba had arrested 77 prisoners of conscience "for the non-violent exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association."

"Amnesty International is seeking an immediate explanation from the Cuban authorities regarding the recent detentions, including a list of charges against them and the legal grounds on which they will be tried," it said.

The London-based organisation urged Cuba to release all its prisoners of conscience and reform the laws which make such detentions possible.

"Before the recent crackdown, Amnesty International had already recognized 15 prisoners of conscience in Cuba," it said. "With the latest mass arrests, the number of prisoners of conscience could rise to its highest level in recent years."

Activists and diplomats said last month Cuba had arrested 72 dissidents in a bid to stifle growing opposition to President Fidel Castro and risked losing potentially lucrative European aid as a result.

With world attention focused on the U.S.-led war in Iraq, security agents searched homes across the island and took away opposition political activists and independent journalists.

Police confiscated computers, fax machines, typewriters, books and papers from the dissidents' homes.

Among those detained were Cuba's most prominent independent journalist Raul Rivero, economist Martha Beatriz Roque and reformist Hector Palacios.

The Cuban government said the dissidents were being picked up for conspiring with U.S. diplomats to subvert Cuba's one-party state and would be put on trial.

The United States, which has openly supported many of the dissidents, described the roundup as outrageous.

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