Dissidents speak out against arrest of Czechs in Cuba
It's now a week since Czech MP Ivan Pilip and former student leader Jan Bubenik were arrested in Cuba after meeting with leading dissidents. Earlier this week, the Cuban state-controlled media announced that the two men are to stand trial for subversion, for allegedly bringing money and other materials to Cuban dissidents. The Czech government and the US State Department have called for the immediate release of the two men, and so far the two have been denied the opportunity of making a statement in their defence. On Thursday, Radio Prague's Federico Picado succeeded in contacting Roberto Valdivia of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, whom Pilip and Bubenik met prior to their arrest.
"On January 11th we were visited by Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik, who did not claim to represent any Cuban opposition organisation in exile, but who came as individuals who oppose the Communist regime. We discussed general political and economic matters, and at no point were we given instructions on how to focus our activities. We received no financial or material help from them. The arrest of Mr. Pilip and Mr. Bubenik has no legal basis, and they should be released. We will repeat this statement to any institution or body, as we will not surrender the right to receive visitors and freely exchange opinions with them."
In previous cases where foreign nationals met with Cuban opposition groups, the Cuban government chose to deport them rather than bring charges. Nick Carey spoke to Gideon Lichfield, The Economist's correspondent in Mexico City, and asked him first of all why he thought the Cuban authorities had decided to go ahead with charges in this particular case: