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Americas

Dissident prisoner's death spurs international outcry

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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-25

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has joined the chorus of international calls for the release of political prisoners in Cuba, spurred by the death of jailed dissident Orlando Zapata after a 12-week hunger strike.

AFP - Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Thursday demanded that Cuba free all its political prisoners after a leading Cuban dissident died following an 11-week hunger strike.
   
"We can imagine the suffering of the Cuban political prisoners and we must demand that the Cuban regime free its prisoners of conscience and respect human rights," he said.
   
"This is a fundamental demand of the entire international community," added Zapatero, whose country holds the rotating six-month presidency of the EU.
   
He was reacting to the death on Tuesday of leading Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, 42, at a Havana hospital on the 85th day of a hunger strike. Tamayo had been refusing food in protest at jail conditions.
   
His death marks the first time in nearly 40 years a Cuban activist starved himself to death to protest against government abuses.
   
Spain has been at the forefront of efforts to boost relations with Cuba, a former Spanish colony, since Zapatero, a socialist, came to power in 2004.
   
His conservative predecessor as prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, had adopted a policy of isolating the communist island.
   
Madrid has pushed the 27-nation European Union to modify its 1996 common position on Cuba which links dialogue to freedoms and human rights on the island, arguing it has yielded few results.
   
The policy has been sharply criticised by Spain's conservative opposition and the media in the wake of Tamayo's death.
   
The opposition Popular Party's head of international affairs, Jorge Moragas, on Wednesday condemned "the lack of sensitivity of the Zapatero government" regarding Cuban dissidents and urged the government to "correct" its policy.
   
Amnesty International says there are 65 prisoners of conscience in Cuba.
   
Havana designates prisoners of conscience as mercenaries sympathetic to the United States. 

Date created : 2010-02-25

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