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EU diplomats say Cuba dissident case "worrying"
Thu Aug 27, 2009 4:05pm EDT
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By Jeff Franks
HAVANA (Reuters) - Diplomats from European Union countries went to the home of a jailed Cuban dissident on Thursday to express their concern about the case and what they view as ongoing efforts by island authorities to quell dissent.
Their visit also signaled that despite improved relations with Cuba, the EU still has reservations about its treatment of government opponents.
Representatives from Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Germany and Britain met with Yusnaimy Jorge Soca, the wife of Cuban physician Darsi Ferrer who has been imprisoned since July 21 on charges he bought two bags of cement on the black market and verbally assaulted a neighbor.
No trial date has been set for Ferrer, 39, who has organized walks along Havana's seaside boulevard, the Malecon, and in front of local UNESCO offices to support human rights.
Angry mobs attacked his small group at the UNESCO walks in 2006 and 2007.
His wife, pointing to concrete ceiling beams with gaping holes at their home, told reporters a friend had given them cement to make repairs to their cramped and crumbling home.
"My husband is not in prison for two bags of cement," she said. "He's in prison for dreaming."
Swedish diplomat Ingemar Cederberg, speaking on behalf of the EU group, said the case looked suspiciously like a political prosecution hidden behind trumped-up criminal charges and needed to be "clarified."
"There's a question mark when it comes to this arrest," Cederberg said. "There are accusations that belong to the category of common crime, not really political, and (our visit) is a way of showing our interest that the case should advance and get clarified," he said.
Sweden currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
The government has been accused by the Cuban Commission on Human Rights, a group that tracks political prisoners, of using short detentions to quell dissent.
Cuba views dissidents as mercenaries working on behalf of its long-time enemy the United States, which openly supports opposition groups.
Cederberg said there were several recent cases where government opponents were jailed on non-political charges.
Cuba may be "trying to invent something new, and that is very worrying," he said. Continued...
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