August 5, 2013 in Nation/World

Group calls for Cubans’ release

Peter Orsi Associated Press
 

HAVANA – Amnesty International designated five Cubans detained on the island as “prisoners of conscience” on Sunday and called for their immediate release.

The New York-based human rights watchdog highlighted the cases of Rafael Matos Montes de Oca, Emilio Planas Robert and brothers Alexeis, Diango and Vianco Vargas Martin. It said they have been held for months in eastern provincial lockups.

“These five cases are only the tip of the iceberg for Cuba’s repression of free speech,” Amnesty special adviser Javier Zuniga said in a statement.

Cuban officials, who did not respond to a request for comment Sunday, deny holding any political prisoners. The government and its supporters call dissidents “counterrevolutionaries” and “mercenaries” who take foreign money to try to undermine the island’s communist system.

Cuba has cleared its jails of internationally recognized prisoners of conscience in recent years. In April 2011, the last of 75 dissidents and activists sentenced to long prison terms after a 2003 crackdown walked free under a deal brokered by the Roman Catholic Church. Many went into exile with their families.

The five named Sunday are the only prisoners of conscience Amnesty currently recognizes in Cuba.

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