releases 40 dissidents arrested Thursday:
HAVANA, September 28 (AFP) - The Cuban
government has released around 40 people
it had detained for trying join a small
but bold Havana street protest headed by
a leading dissident, an opposition human
rights group said Friday.
The arrests took place on Thursday and
all but one of those held were released
during the night, said Elizardo Sanchez
who heads a human rights group Cuban authorities
tolerate even though they consider it illegal.
"We registered about 40 arbitrary
detentions yesterday," Sanchez told
Prominent activist Martha Beatriz Roque
told AFP several people were roughed up
upon their release.
Thursday's detentions came as several dozen
people tried to participate in a small protest
Roque led outside the Justice Ministry in
Havana, dissidents said.
Roque said she and another six people stood
outside the ministry for six hours and handed
over a letter demanding the release of political
"Those who dare think differently
than the government and are currently in
prison must be released," the dissidents
said in the letter addressed to Justice
Minister Maria Esther Reus.
The letter also asked that political prisoners
be treated "with dignity."
Roque said a crowd of about 100 government
supporters gathered across the street to
taunt the protesters, calling them "mercenaries"
and "worms," terms the communist
authorities use to describe foes of the
An economist who has been twice jailed
for her opposition to the ruling Communist
Party, Roque said police eventually forced
her and other protesters to to leave the
area, escorting them home.
The officer in charge told Roque that police
were protecting her from "the wrath
of the people," the activist said.
According to the dissidents there are 250
political prisoners in Cuba, a number that
has decreased during the 14-month-old interim
presidency of Raul Castro.
The government insists there are no political
prisoners on the island, but that the jail
population includes "mercenaries"
financed by the United States, and people
who plotted subversive or terrorist acts.
Thursday's arrests came two days after
US President George W. Bush called for democratic
change in Cuba, saying at the UN General
Assembly in New York that "the long
rule of a cruel dictator is nearing its
end," a reference to the ailing, 81-year-old
President Fidel Castro.
Cuba responded by saying the US administration
lacked the moral authority to judge Cuba.
In his address to the assembly, Cuban Foreign
Minister Felipe Perez Roque called the US
leader an arrogant liar, lashing out at
what he termed "the delirium tremens
of the world's policeman."
Castro has been convalescing in seclusion
since he underwent intestinal surgery in
July, 2006, when he "provisionally"
handed power to his younger brother Raul,
Cuba's defense minister and longtime number