Cuba jailing of dissidents draw anger across the world. Castro's government says they are conspirators linked to Washington, as diplomatic conflict with Washington grows
Last week, Cuban courts sentenced more than 30 dissidents to lengthy prison terms on charges ranging from counterrevolutionary activities to conspiracy. The decision provoked the reaction of the US Government, the European Commission and Human Rights groups. The US Government said Castro was using "Stalinist tactics" against the opposition groups.
A White House spokesman said the recent crackdown was proof that President Fidel Castro's government remained a "totalitarian blight" on the region. The EU Commission also called for the immediate release of the dissidents, who were prosecuted for treason in closed courts and who have been handed down lengthy sentences.
Despite international links, more than 30 dissidents were sent to prison, including the prominent poet and independent journalist Raul Rivero, the economist Martha Beatriz Roque and other members of Cuban reforming groups. All the defendants were convicted of working with the US to undermine the government of President Fidel Castro.
"We are not going to reverse our policy of helping the dissidents," said national security spokesman Michael Anton. President George W Bush was "deeply concerned" about President Castro's heavy-handed tactics, he added. The US House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday condemning the dissidents' arrests and the harsh sentencing of many of them.
According to a report released by the Cuban Ministry of Justice, defendants were condemned "due to their known participation in mercenary activities and other actions against (Cuba) independence and territorial integrity". Trials, reads the statement posted by the official news agency, Prensa Latina, were carried on according to usual legal procedures, respecting the rights of the defendants.
Additionally, condemned dissidents were confirmed on their right to appeal the sentence before the "Supreme Tribunal of the People", country's main court. Many of the group of 78 Cuban dissidents rounded up over the past three weeks are still waiting to hear their fate.
Castro's Government has recently restricted the movements of the US diplomats within the island and blamed on the head of the US representation to Cuba, James Cason, of being agitating to push counterrevolutionary activities.