Dissidents in Cuba
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December 2007
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Cuban church takes up dissident beatings with government

Cuban church takes up dissident beatings with government
Thu Dec 6, 2007 3:53pm EST

HAVANA (Reuters) – The Roman Catholic Church in Cuba said on Thursday it
was seeking an explanation from country's communist authorities for the
beating and arrest of dissidents in a parish hall two days ago.

Cuba's main rights group said the seven people arrested by state
security police at the parish church of Santa Teresita in the eastern
city of Santiago on Tuesday had been released.

"The Archbishop of Santiago, Monsignor Dionisio Garcia, is holding
conversations with the Office of Religious Affairs (of the Central
Committee of the Communist Party)," a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops
Conference in Cuba said.

Plainclothes police stormed into a parish hall used for masses. They
beat and used pepper spray on a group of dissidents, parish priest Jose
Conrado Rodriguez said.

The police took away seven people, including three women, who had
marched through the streets protesting the arrest of a fellow dissident
and gone to Rodriguez' church to attend evening mass, he said.

The Cuban government has not commented on the incident, which occurred
at a time of improved relations between the government and the church.

Cuba was an atheist state until 1992, when the freedom of religious
worship was officially recognized. State-church ties improved with the
visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998.

Relations have strengthened further recently as the church withheld
criticism of Cuba's social problems.

Cuba's main rights group, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and
National Reconciliation — which is illegal but

tolerated by the Cuban government — said all the dissidents detained at
the church had been freed by Wednesday night.

"The church measures its deeds and words, but for us this was the
desecration of a church … an act of brutal police repression," said
the head of the commission, veteran rights activist Elizardo Sanchez.

"The church deserves an explanation," Sanchez told foreign reporters in
Havana. He said Cuba, with some 250 political prisoners, continued to be
a "gulag."

Police have picked up dozens of dissidents in recent days in Cuba for
temporary detentions that Sanchez said were aimed at discouraging
opposition street protests planned for Monday, International Human
Rights Day.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle, editing by Cynthia Osterman)


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