Washington: The United States called on Cuba to free more than 200 political prisoners after a leading Cuban dissident died following an 11-week hunger strike.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Washington was "deeply distressed" by the death of 42-year-old Orlando Zapata on Tuesday.
"Mr Orlando Zapata Tamayo`s death highlights the injustice of Cuba`s holding more than 200 political prisoners who should now be released without delay," Hillary`s spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement yesterday.
Crowley added that last week a US team visiting Cuba to discuss migration issues had "raised Zapata`s incarceration and poor health with Cuban officials and urged them to provide all necessary medical care.”
"Jailed since 2003 and deemed a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, Zapata had blamed his deteriorating health on harsh conditions inside jails in Cuba, ruled by the only single-party communist regime in the Americas."
He had been on hunger strike for 85 days.
Meanwhile, Hillary during a Senate hearing yesterday said, "We were concerned about his welfare. We urged that he be given medical attention and care."
"We are deeply distressed by his death during a hunger strike on behalf of his rights," the chief US diplomat said.
"We are very supportive of the work that we believe should be done to support prisoners of conscience inside of Cuba," she said.