Hunger strike in Cuba
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February 2010
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    Cuba in crackdown after dissident's death

    Cuba in crackdown after 's death
    By Carlos Batista, Agence France-PresseFebruary 24, 2010 3:06 PM

    HAVANA – Security agents detained dissidents across Cuba Wednesday to
    prevent protests at the funeral of a leading political prisoner, an
    activist said, after the death of the hunger-striking detainee sparked
    international outrage.

    Cuban President Raul Castro "regrets the death of Cuban prisoner Orlando
    Tamayo, who died yesterday after having been on a hunger strike,"
    a foreign ministry statement said.

    But Castro denied allegations of in the Americas' only
    one-party communist regime after the late dissident's mother charged her
    son was tortured.

    "There are no tortured people, there were no tortured people, there was
    no execution," Raul Castro, 78, told reporters. "That is what happens at
    (the U.S. naval base in) Guantanamo."

    The government's initial reaction however appeared to be to move swiftly
    against other dissidents.

    Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the outlawed Commission for Human Rights
    and National Reconciliation, told AFP that security agents had detained
    about 30 activists Tuesday and Wednesday.

    "Some also have been held in their houses, without a judicial warrant,
    to prevent people from going to the wake," he said.

    Dissidents have been rounded up in the eastern provinces of Santiago de
    Cuba, Guantanamo, Las Tunas and Camaguey, and in the central city of
    Placetas, Sanchez said.

    Zapata, 42, was to be buried in his hometown of Banes, 830 kilometers
    (500 miles) east of Havana, after a wake at the home of his mother.

    "My son was tortured the whole time he was in ," Reina Luisa
    Tamayo charged in a video on the blog Generacion Y, run by independent
    journalist Yoani Sanchez in defiance of Havana's tightly controlled
    state media.

    Tamayo implored "the international community to demand the release of
    the rest of (Cuba's political) prisoners . . . so that what happened to
    my boy does not happen again."

    Zapata's death drew international condemnation and calls for an

    Jailed since 2003 and deemed a by Amnesty
    International, Zapata had blamed his already deteriorating health on
    harsh conditions inside Cuba's jails.

    Sanchez said it was the first time in nearly 40 years that a Cuban
    opposition figure has died while on a hunger strike. Zapata's death is
    "bad news for the human rights movement and for the government as well,"
    he said.

    The movement "is not seeking martyrs," said , leader of the
    Christian Liberation Movement dissident group. Zapata died "defending
    the , rights and dignity of all Cubans," Paya added.

    In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said
    Zapata's death "highlights the injustice of Cuba's holding more than 200
    political prisoners who should now be released without delay."

    The Commission also voiced deep regret at Zapata's death.

    The urges the Cuban government "to improve effectively
    the human rights situation in the country by releasing unconditionally
    all political prisoners," EU commission spokesman John Clancy told AFP.

    Cuba claims it has no political prisoners; it says regime opponents are
    all "mercenaries" in the pay of the or right-wing Cuban

    Zapata was one of 55 "prisoners of conscience" adopted by Amnesty
    International in Cuba, most of whom were also in the 2003
    government crackdown on activists seeking political change.

    Initially given a three-year prison term, Zapata saw his sentence grow
    to 36 years as the government piled on additional charges of
    "disobedience" and "disorder in a penal establishment."

    Amnesty International said Zapata "felt he had no other avenue available
    to him but to starve himself in protest is a terrible indictment of the
    continuing repression of political dissidents in Cuba."

    Hector Palacios, one of 75 political prisoners convicted in 2003 and who
    met Zapata in prison, told AFP "people are outraged," and that a
    national mourning and fasting period was being weighed.

    "I'm crushed," said Palacios, who has been released for health reasons.
    Zapata "had no alternative but to opt for the hunger strike. The
    authorities took no pity on him, they just let him die."

    Cuba in crackdown after dissident's death (24 February 2010)

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