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3/7/03 - FREE CUBAN POLITICAL PRISONERS - 2003-03-07


The past few years in Cuba have been particularly difficult for those who oppose Fidel Castro's Communist regime. The dictator has arrested hundreds of dissidents whose only crimes were to call for democracy and human rights for the Cuban people.

Amnesty International is calling for the immediate release of a number of those Cuban prisoners of conscience -- people detained solely because they were exercising their fundamental rights. Among them are three well-known leaders of dissident groups -- Yosvany Aguilar Camejo (JOS-vah-ny ahg-ee-LAR cam-A-ho) of the Fraternal Brothers Dignity Movement, Carlos Oquendo Rodríguez (oh-KEN-do) of the July 13th Opposition Movement, and Emilio Leyva Pérez (LAY-vah PER-ez) of the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party.

Amnesty International is also calling for the immediate release of Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, the president of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights. In August 1999, Dr. Biscet was arrested along with four other people who had been meeting to discuss non-violent civil resistance to the Castro government's policies. For two days, Dr. Biscet was interrogated and threatened with imprisonment.

After his release, Dr. Biscet continued to criticize the Cuban government. In November 1999, he was arrested on charges of "insulting the symbols of the homeland," "public disorder," and "instigation to commit crime." In fact, he had merely participated in anti-abortion protests, and hung a Cuban flag upside down during a press conference.

In October 2002, Dr. Biscet completed a three-year prison term. On December 6th, he and several others were arrested following a meeting of dissidents at a private home in Havana. As he was led away, Dr. Biscet declared, "Long live human rights." He is still in custody.

The United States will continue to speak out until the Castro government respects the rights of citizens like Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Yosvany Aguilar Camejo, Carlos Oquendo Rodríguez, Emilio Leyva Pérez, and so many others. As President George W. Bush said, "The United States has been a strong and consistent supporter of freedom for the Cuban people. And it is important for those who love freedom on that beautiful island to know that our support for them will never waver."

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