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Demonstrations disrupted in Cuba

The Cuban authorities took action on Tuesday to suppress peaceful demonstrations marking the 6th anniversary of a crackdown against dissidents. Several members of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) were prevented from travelling to Havana for activities marking the anniversary. Some were blocked from leaving their homes and one of them was forced to get off the bus that was taking her to Havana and was driven back to her home. “The Cuban authorities must stop this continuing harassment of activists who are peacefully attempting to exercise their freedom of expression and association,” said Gerardo Ducos, Cuba researcher at Amnesty International. Two members of the Damas de Blanco were previously detained for several hours on 8 March and several others prevented from leaving their homes, in an apparent attempt to prevent them from participating in events to commemorate International Women' Day. The Damas de Blanco is an unofficial group formed by women who are relatives and friends of those imprisoned in the March 2003 crackdown. The Cuban authorities arrested 75 men and women for their peaceful expression of opinions critical of the government in 2003. The 75 were subjected to summary trials and were sentenced to long prison terms of up to 28 years. Amnesty International declared them to be prisoners of conscience. Fifty-four remain in prison. The Damas de Blanco organizes peaceful marches where they distribute flowers and call for the release of their relatives and friends who are still in prison. In 2005, Damas de Blanco was awarded The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament. The five representatives nominated by the group to collect the award in Strasbourg were unable to travel from Cuba, because they did not receive the necessary travel documents from the Cuban authorities.