Fri, Jul 27, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Cuba frees arrested Paya mourners

RELEASED WITHOUT CHARGES:The dissidents were detained after a funeral in which late political activist Oswaldo Paya’s daughter called his death suspicious

AFP, HAVANA

Cuban authorities have released without charges most of the dissidents arrested after the funeral of political activist Oswaldo Paya, activists said on Wednesday.

“I was arrested for about nine hours at the Tarara police school [in eastern Havana] with about 20 other dissidents. Then, they took me home by car,” rights activist Guillermo Farinas said.

Farinas, the 2010 winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, was among dozens of dissidents arrested on Tuesday after they emerged from Paya’s funeral shouting anti-government slogans.

Most of the other arrested dissidents also were freed under similar conditions, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), a dissident information clearinghouse.

Speaking from his home in the central city of Santa Clara, Farinas, known for hunger strikes against the regime, said he was released “without charge,” as were the other dissidents arrested with him in Tarara.

During his arrest, Farinas said he was struck in the face and forced onto a bus that took him and others to the police barracks.

“I asked [police interrogators] what law in Cuba kept me from walking next to a hearse, but they could not answer,” he said.

CCDHRN president Elizardo Sanchez said “most” of those arrested were freed late on Tuesday.

Authorities say Paya, 60, died on Sunday along with another dissident, Harold Cepero Escalante, when their rental car went off the road and struck a tree in southeastern Cuba.

Paya, an engineer and devout Roman Catholic, founded the Christian Liberation Movement, a group pressing for political change in Cuba.

He won international attention in 2002 when, on the eve of a visit by former US president Jimmy Carter, he presented Cuba’s legislature with more than 11,000 signatures in support of an initiative calling for change on the island.

Paya won the Sakharov prize for human rights later that same year.

Yet his defiance of the Communist system did not bear fruit at home.

When Carter mentioned Paya’s project in an uncensored speech on Cuban state TV, most Cubans, in a country with only official media, had never heard of it. The Cuban legislature ultimately rejected the initiative.

Paya’s daughter, 23-year-old Rosa Maria Paya, sharply questioned the official Cuban account of her father’s death in an impassioned statement delivered at the funeral before an audience that included leaders of Cuba’s Roman Catholic church.

Rosa Maria said her skepticism of the official version was based on “the repeated threats against the life of my father and our family.”

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