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Powell Condemns Cuban Crackdown on Dissidents - 2003-04-10

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Thursday condemned what he termed Cuba's "despicable repression" of political opponents and called for the immediate release of the nearly 80 dissidents sentenced to prison earlier this week.

In a written statement, Mr. Powell described the secret, summary trials of the dissidents as "the most significant act of political repression in decades" and called on the Fidel Castro government to release the prisoners, whose only crime he said was "seeking basic human rights and freedoms."

Nearly 80 Cuban human rights activists were given prison terms ranging from six to 28 years earlier this week in summary trials on subversion and other charges stemming from their association with the chief U.S. diplomat in Cuba, James Cason.

Mr. Powell said the United States and the international community will be unrelenting in insisting that Cubans seeking peaceful change be permitted to do so. He said U.S. delegates and others are working at the current meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva to develop a resolution that condemns what he termed Cuba's "abysmal human rights performance" in the strongest possible terms.