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6/28/03 - CASTRO REAFFIRMS HARSH SENTENCES - 2003-06-30


Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's “Supreme Tribunal,” the highest level of Cuba's compromised judicial system, has "upheld" the harsh prison sentences imposed on dozens of Cubans whose only crime was to speak out for democracy. The sentences were announced after sham trials were held -- trials that made a mockery of any notion of fairness or due process.

A massive crackdown on dissent is underway in Cuba. One of those jailed is independent journalist and poet Raul Rivero. As Rivero's wife, Blanca Reyes, said, "It is a completely unjust sentence and incredible they would condemn a man for so many years for simply writing what he thinks."

Other prominent figures in detention include economists Martha Beatriz Roque and Hector Palacios, journalists Osvaldo Alfonso Valdes and Ricardo Gonzales, independent trade union leader Pedro Pablo Alvarez, and civil society activists Oscar Elias Biscet and Jose Daniel Ferrer.

The crackdown in Communist Cuba has been condemned by governments and human rights groups around the world. As U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, it is the duty of free nations to hold the Cuban government to account:

"Long terms of imprisonment -- twelve, fifteen, twenty years -- for speaking out and trying to exercise basic human rights. This just once again illustrates the nature of that regime under this dictator. Fidel Castro has been doing this for many years. A regime that is one of the last of its kind on the face of the earth and is really an aberration in the Western hemisphere."

The Castro regime's assault on peaceful dissent is the most notorious act of political repression in Latin America against proponents of peaceful change in decades. The United States is calling on free nations to demand the release of Cuban political prisoners.

As President George W. Bush said, the U.S. “has been a strong and consistent supporter of freedom for the Cuban people. And it is important for those who love freedom. . .to know that our support for them will never waver.”

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