About two dozen women marched in Havana on Friday to demand the release of their husbands and other political prisoners ahead of the fifth anniversary of a crackdown on dissent.
Of the 75 government critics arrested March 18-19, 2003, and given long prison terms, 55 remain imprisoned. Sixteen were released early on medical parole and another four were freed into forced exile in Spain last month.
Next week’s anniversary “is very painful for us,” said Laura Pollan of the Ladies in White, a support group for wives of political prisoners. Pollan’s husband, Hector Maseda, was arrested and sentenced to 20 years.
Cuba accused the independent journalists, rights activists and other opposition members of being U.S. mercenaries working to undermine the communist government. The dissidents and American officials reject that charge.
Cuba currently holds 234 prisoners of conscience, according to a report early this year by the Havana-based Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
That’s down from 246 last June - continuing a decline since Raul Castro took over provisionally for his ailing brother Fidel in July 2006, when it listed 316.
A group of women, known as the Ladies in White, march in Havana, Friday, March 14, 2008, to demand the release of their husbands and other political prisoners in Cuba.