Ensure better treatment of political prisoners: Spain to Cuba

Last Updated: Friday, February 19, 2010 - 11:56

Madrid: Spain has asked the Cuban government to provide better humanitarian treatment for ailing dissidents during a meeting in Madrid to discuss the state of human rights on the Communist-ruled island.
As in the three previous meetings to discuss human rights, the Spanish government expressed its humanitarian interest in several "specific cases" of opposition figures, officials within Spain`s Foreign Ministry told EFE.

One of the dissidents whose life is deemed to be in danger is Orlando Zapata, who, after 75 days on hunger strike, was transferred on Tuesday to a prison hospital in Havana due to his "grave condition".

Zapata was one of 75 government opponents rounded up and jailed in Spring 2003 on charges of conspiring with the US to undermine the Cuban revolution. While some of those dissidents have since been freed on medical grounds, more than 50 remain behind bars.

Also belonging to that group is Ariel Sigler, who is in a wheelchair because of the deterioration of his health during his prison stay.

The Cuban delegation was headed by senior Foreign Ministry official Anayansi Rodriguez Camejo, along with Cuba`s Ambassador to Spain, Alejandro Gonzalez Galiano.

On the Spanish side at the meeting were the directors-general of Foreign Policy, Alfonso Lucini; Ibero-America, Juan Carlos Sanchez, and of the UN, Global Affairs and Human Rights, Jorge Domecq.

At the meeting, which lasted for several hours, the participants "spoke of all matters, without restrictions", Spanish officials said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said on Thursday in Madrid that these types of meetings allow the parties "to advance, build trust, the promotion and respect for human rights and (achieve) a better level of understanding and cooperation in this area".

This dialogue mechanism was inaugurated in April 2007 during the visit Moratinos made to Havana to open a new page in bilateral relations.

The meeting was preceded by the Hispano-Cuban seminar on human rights held on Wednesday behind closed doors at the Palacio de Viana in Madrid, an event attended by officials from the island, as well as legal experts and representatives of organisations from both countries.

At that forum, however, there were no representatives of the Cuban opposition living in Spain.

The meetings have all come during Spain`s tenure in the rotating presidency of the European Union, a period during which Moratinos has set forth the aim of easing European policy toward Havana.

The current common position of the EU, which has been in effect since 1996, links political dialogue to advances by Havana in the area of democracy and freedoms.

IANS



First Published: Friday, February 19, 2010 - 11:56

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