Cuba marks rights day with dozens of arrests

Cuba marked Human Rights Day by detaining dozens of opposition activists or barring them from leaving their homes Thursday to prevent protests against the communist authorities, rights groups said.  

AFP| Last Updated: Dec 11, 2015, 05:43 AM IST

Havana: Cuba marked Human Rights Day by detaining dozens of opposition activists or barring them from leaving their homes Thursday to prevent protests against the communist authorities, rights groups said.

In Havana at least a dozen activists were arrested when attempting to attend a gathering arranged by the "Ladies in White" dissident movement, AFP reporters said.

The independent news portal "14ymedio" said its team was prevented from leaving its building in the capital.

There were similar scenes elsewhere on the island -- as is usually the case in Cuba on international rights day, when authorities stamp down on dissent.

The arrests are usually brief.

At least 11 people were arrested in Guantanamo, on the eastern tip of Cuba, and six more in the capital when they attempted to meet up, said dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba rights body.

In Camaguey, central Cuba, another 23 activists were intercepted by authorities, he said.

It came as Attorney General Dario Delgado asserted that Cuba has no political prisoners, only jailed common criminals who "call themselves dissidents."

"It is sometimes said there are political prisoners here. There aren`t," Delgado told the official Communist Party daily Granma.

"The majority of those who call themselves dissidents are common inmates who have been attracted by counter-revolutionary organizations, internal or external, and receive payments directly or indirectly," he said. 

"But they aren`t prisoners of conscience."

Among foreigners imprisoned on the island, Delgado said some were common criminals and a "very few" were "terrorists or someone who came to Cuba to subvert the political order."

President Raul Castro`s communist government in January released 53 inmates whom Washington considered political prisoners, as part of a historic rapprochement between the two former Cold War foes.

But the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which is illegal but tolerated by the government, says another 60 political prisoners remain in Cuban jails.

International human rights groups say the government routinely harasses and temporarily jails opposition activists to prevent them from taking part in public demonstrations or attending private meetings.

In Cuba, all opposition to Communist Party rule is forbidden.