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Activists silenced during Pope's visit - Amnesty

Published:Friday | March 30, 2012 | 12:00 AM

HAVANA (CMC):

Global human-rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has said Cuban human-rights activists are facing a surge in harassment in a bid to silence them during the Pope's visit, which ended here on Wednesday.

"The clampdown has seen an increase in arrests, activists' phones have been disconnected and some have had their houses surrounded to prevent them denouncing abuses during Pope Benedict's tour," the London-based group said.

It also said local human-rights organisations, including the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, had their phone lines cut off since Monday.

"The mobile phones of prominent activists and government critics are suddenly unreachable," Amnesty International said.

Javier Zúñiga, special adviser at Amnesty International, said the "communications blockade" and the detention of more than 150 political opponents is yet another example of how authorities in Cuba completely disregard human rights.

End harassment

"The Cuban authorities must urgently stop harassing activists and ensure everybody in Cuba is free to voice their opinions so activists can carry out their legitimate activities," he said.

"In view of this situation, which contradicts his appeal for a 'more open society' in Cuba, the Pope should take a stand and lend his voice to those that have been left voiceless due to the ongoing repression and condemn the lack of freedoms in Cuba," Zúñiga said.

On Monday, he said dozens of government opponents were detained in Santiago de Cuba where the Pope gave a public mass at the start of his visit.

He also said police and state security officers also surrounded the homes of many opponents and kept them under siege, preventing them from attending the Pope's mass or moving freely.