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    Amnesty: Cuba harassing dead hunger striker’s mom

    Posted on Tuesday, 08.17.10
    Amnesty: Cuba harassing dead hunger striker’s mom
    By WILL WEISSERT
    Associated Press Writer

    HAVANA — Amnesty International is calling on Cuban authorities to stop
    disrupting weekly marches by the mother of a political who died
    following a lengthy hunger strike.

    The London-based human rights group said in a statement Tuesday that
    officials should “end the harassment” of , who takes
    to the streets each Sunday with a small group of relatives to honor her
    son Orlando Tamayo, who died Feb. 23 after refusing food and
    water for months.

    Tamayo told Amnesty that pro-government mobs surrounded her house in the
    eastern Cuba city of Banes on Sunday and prevented her, her family and
    friends from marching and attending Roman Catholic Mass. She said Cuban
    security forces kept other women who planned to march from leaving their
    homes.

    “Reina Luisa Tamayo is simply paying tribute to her son who died in
    tragic circumstances, and that must be respected by the authorities,”
    said Kerrie Howard, Amnesty International’s Americas deputy director.

    Zapata Tamayo, jailed since 2003 on charges that included disrespecting
    authority, became the first Cuban opposition figure in nearly 40 years
    to die after a hunger strike – an incident decried by U.S. Secretary of
    State Hillary Rodham Clinton and European leaders.

    The communist government has not commented on the case of his mother,
    but it tolerates no organized political opposition. Authorities dismiss
    dissidents and community organizers as “mercenaries” paid by the U.S.
    government and anti-Castro groups in Florida to destabilize the island’s
    political system. They describe Amnesty and other international rights
    organizations as tools of Washington.

    Elizardo Sanchez, head of the independent, Havana-based Cuban Commission
    on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said by phone Tuesday that
    Tamayo “has really begun facing sustained harassment.”

    Tamayo also told Amnesty that on Aug. 8, a mob blocked her path and beat
    relatives and friends who were marching – while police nearby failed to
    act. She said six loudspeakers had been installed near her house, used
    to shout insults against her and the Ladies in White, a Havana support
    group for wives and mother of political prisoners.

    U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American and Florida Republican,
    also denounced the treatment of Tamayo, saying that “preventing this
    infirmed 62-year-old grieving mother from attending Sunday church is yet
    another example of the ruthlessness of the Castro regime.”

    The government claims such “acts of repudiation” are spontaneous
    expressions of public anger, but coordination between state agents and
    counter-protesters is open and participants are often bused in.

    Under a landmark deal between the government and the Catholic Church on
    July 7, authorities agreed to free 52 political prisoners, and so far 23
    have been released into exile in with their families.

    On Monday, however, police detained and released blogger Luis
    Felipe Rojas near his home in San German in the eastern province of
    Holguin. Amnesty International expressed concern about that case and
    Sanchez said Rojas was arrested with “four or five” others for reasons
    unknown – but that all were subsequently freed.

    Rojas said via Twitter that he was forced to sit in the lobby of a
    police station for 12 hours. He said the reason was his criticism of
    Cuba’s government on the internet. Though access to his site is not
    blocked on the island, his family told Amnesty that he has been detained
    previously under similar circumstances.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/17/1779842/amnesty-cuba-harassing-dead-hunger.html

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