March 5, 1999

U.S. Assails Cuba For Secrecy In Trial of Dissidents


WASHINGTON - The State Department criticized Cuba's treatment of four accused dissidents and also the secrecy in which their trial on sedition charges was carried out.

Spokesman James Foley on Tuesday noted that Cuban authorities barred the foreign media and diplomatic representatives from Monday's trial.

``It is simply an affront to the most elemental concept of due process that the Cuban government went to extraordinary lengths to avoid public scrutiny of its justice system,'' Foley said.

He also said the four - Marta Beatriz Roque, Vladimiro Roca, Felix Bonne and Rene Gomez Manzano - ``have been held in cells with common criminals, denied adequate medical care and denied their fundamental rights.''

They had been detained for 19 months before their trial.

Foley strongly condemned the Cuban government's treatment of the dissidents. ``We call for their immediate release,'' he said. A verdict in the trial is pending.

Dozens of sympathizers were either detained or placed under house arrest on Monday to prevent demonstrations of solidarity with the defendants. Many of those detained were released on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, congressional sources said four senators plan to introduce a resolution on Wednesday calling on the Clinton administration to make all efforts necessary for the approval of a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Commission criticizing Cuba's human rights practices.

The senators are Jesse Helms, R-N.C.; Bob Graham, D-F.l; Robert Torricelli, D-N.J.; and Connie Mack, R-Fl.

The proposed resolution states that rights abuses in Cuba ``stem from a complete intolerance of dissent and the totalitarian nature of the regime, which is controlled by Fidel Castro.''

The annual meeting of the Human Rights Commission gets under way later this month in Geneva.

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