Ladies in White opposition leader arrested in Cuba

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Havana (AFP) – A prominent Cuban dissident was arrested along with three other women in Havana, the capital, on Sunday, her husband said.

Berta Soler, who leads the Ladies in White protest movement, was arrested before a regular demonstration in support of political prisoners, former dissident Angel Moya confirmed to AFP.

Long considered the only opposition group that the Cuban government allows to march regularly, the Ladies in White movement is made up of relatives of imprisoned dissidents, campaigning for their release.

They parade almost every Sunday, dressed in white.

“They were arrested around 11 a.m., as they were preparing to go to Santa Rita,” Moya said, referring to the church where women usually attend mass on Sundays before marching.

Alongside Soler, Ladies in White members Lourdes Esquivel and Gladys Capote, as well as Barbara Ferrat, were arrested by plainclothes police, he said.

He reported that, “prevented from going to Santa Rita”, the women began a protest outside the Ladies in White headquarters in the Lawton neighborhood of Havana.

Ferrat’s son, Jonathan Torres, 17, had been arrested earlier for participating in the historic July 11 protests that erupted in some 50 Cuban cities over the summer.

An unprecedented government crackdown on the anti-government revolt left one dead, dozens injured and more than 1,000 people detained, several hundred of whom remain behind bars.

Political opposition is illegal in Cuba and dissidents, often detained for short periods, are considered “mercenaries” in the service of the United States.

Moya, one of 75 political prisoners in the so-called Black Spring of 2003, said that ‘as usual’ the police did not say where the detainees were and that he did not know where they were his wife.

The United States Embassy in Cuba condemned the arrests.

“The regime should stop harassing activists and worried mothers. We call for their immediate release and support them and all political prisoners in #Cuba,” the diplomatic mission said on its Twitter account.