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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2003 > December
Press Statement
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 5, 2003


U.S. Notes One-Year Anniversary of the Arrest of Cuban Dissident Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet

The United States notes the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Cuban dissident Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, who was detained December 6, 2002 along with nine other members of his opposition group, for attempting to organize an event to commemorate Human Rights Day. We again call for the immediate release of Dr. Biscet and the hundreds of other political prisoners in Cuba.

Like so many other leading members of Cubaís nascent civil society, Dr. Biscet has been subjected to systematic harassment and abuse by Cuban state security. After having served three years in prison on trumped-up charges of public disorder, he was released a year ago, then was again arrested. Biscet was held until April, when he was charged and tried with the 75 prisoners of conscience convicted in regime show trials.

Biscet's real "crime" was to attempt to teach others about international human rights practices in a country where such fundamental rights are routinely ignored by the government. Recently, he was forced to serve 21 days in a punishment cell for assisting both common prisoners and other political prisoners in demanding recognition of their fundamental rights. We applaud Dr. Biscetís courage in the face of overwhelming odds and extreme adversity.

Sadly, Dr. Biscet turned out to be only the first victim of one of the most severe crackdowns the Castro regime has unleashed on civil society since the beginning of the revolution. In March of this year, another 75 independent journalists, librarians, and human rights defenders were arrested, subjected to sham trials, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms for exercising fundamental, internationally protected rights.

We express our admiration for the wife and family of Dr. Biscet, and the families of all Cuban political prisoners, for their courage in keeping the world aware of the plight of Cuba's pro-democracy activists. Their activities, such as obtaining thousands of signatures for the Varela Project, which calls for a referendum on political and economic reforms, demonstrate the capacity of the Cuban people to overcome fear and promote a peaceful transition to democracy.

2003/1229


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