Demonstrators protest outside Cuban embassy on third anniversary of crackdown

Photo: CTK

A small group of demonstrators gathered outside the Cuban embassy in Prague on Thursday, demanding the release of political prisoners on the island. The protest, held on the third anniversary of the 2003 brutal crackdown on Cuban dissidents, was organised by the Czech NGO People in Need. Simon Panek is the head of the organisation.

Simon Panek, photo: Freddy Valverde
"It happened three years ago, on 18th March. Seventy-five people were imprisoned, and most of them are still in prison. And altogether the estimated number is at least 300 people who are, let's say, political prisoners. This is part of a broader action which is happening in a few other countries in Europe as well, and today's demonstration outside the Cuban embassy was to show the Cuban embassy that the issue is still alive in Czech."

On Friday People in Need were due to erect a mock Cuban jail cell on Prague's Wenceslas Square. Leading personalities, dressed in prison clothes, will take it in turns to serve a symbolic jail sentence to raise awareness of the dissidents imprisoned in Cuba. But as Simon Panek says, People in Need's support for Cuban dissidents is material as well as just symbolic.

Photo: CTK
"People in Need, alongside a dozen other NGOs worldwide, are providing through let's say confidential channels support to independent journalists, to the families of political prisoners and to some opposition politicians or activists in Cuba. Which means supplies of tape recorders, cameras, laptops, cell phones - things which in a normal country you can just go out and buy. You can't in Cuba."

Photo: Freddy Valverde
And support is also extended to the families of the imprisoned dissidents, who have to live in difficult circumstances while their loved ones are far away.

"Families of political prisoners get a small cash donation, which is collected among the Czech population. It's roughly 50 dollars per month, which is for their economic troubles, as well as medicaments, or food supplies for imprisoned husbands, because it's mainly men in prison. And for fees to travel once every three months, because the regime is imprisoning their husbands on purpose to the furthest possible places in Cuba, so it means a very difficult economical problem for a woman with kids, how to obtain enough money to travel 400 km one way and back."

For more on the organisation's Cuba campaign go to www.clovekvtisni.cz/english/humanitarnipomoc/cuba.php