Cuba: Biggest crackdown on dissent in a decade

'In what appears to have been the biggest crackdown in a decade, independent journalists, members of human rights groups, political activists and other perceived dissidents across the country have been detained in a major police operation,' Amnesty International said. The detainees, who range from well-known dissidents to grassroots-level activists, remain imprisoned without charge, and the whereabouts of some of them is unknown. According to reports, at the time of the arrests security forces searched homes across the island and confiscated computers, fax machines, typewriters, books and papers. Those detained could face up to 20 years in prison under harsh legislation introduced in 1999. In addition to the detentions, other high profile opposition figures have been harassed. Plain clothes security agents were apparently posted outside the homes of, among others, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, leader of a citizens' initiative on democratic changes, and former prisoner of conscience Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz, of the CCDHRN, a prominent human rights organisation in Cuba. 'Amnesty International is seeking an immediate explanation from the Cuban authorities regarding the recent detentions, including a list of charges against them and the legal grounds on which they will be tried,' the organisation said. The international human rights organisation has also urged the Cuban government to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience in Cuba. 'We call on the Cuban authorities to reform the legislation which helps legitimise the ongoing incarceration of prisoners of conscience by outlawing the exercise of fundamental freedoms,' Amnesty International concluded. Before the recent crackdown, Amnesty International had already recognised 15 prisoners of conscience in Cuba. With the latest mass arrests, the number of prisoners of conscience could rise to its highest level in recent years. The report is available online at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR250082003?open&of=ENG-CUB

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