EU calls for pressure on Cuba over prisoners

The European Parliament today urged EU member states to increase their pressure on Cuba to release all political prisoners.

In a resolution, politicians also called for human rights issues to be raised by every high-level EU visitor to Cuba.

“In 2005 no prisoners of conscience held in Cuba were released and … the number of political prisoners significantly increased,” said the resolution, which did not calling for renewed sanctions against the island.

Ties between Cuba and the European Union have been strained over the issues of human rights and political freedoms. The EU imposed sanctions on the communist island in 2003 after Cuban authorities detained 75 dissidents on grounds that they were engaged in treasonous activities. The activists received prison terms averaging 20 years.

Cuban authorities released 14 of the prisoners for medical reasons in 2004, and in January the following year, the EU lifted its sanctions, which had included shunning high-level talks with Cuban officials.

“Scores of independent journalists, peaceful dissidents and upholders of human rights are still being held in jail in subhuman conditions,” the parliament resolution said.

Last December, the Cuban government did not allow a women’s group demanding the liberation of Cuban political prisoners to travel to Strasbourg, France, in time to receive the EU’s top human rights prize.

The European Parliament, which awards the Sakharov Prize, urged the Cuban government to lift the travel ban on the group, known as The Ladies in White.

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