Diplomats to visit Britons detained in Cuba
LONDON, England -- Britain will be given access to six of its nationals
incommunicado in Cuba for at least two weeks, after criticising the detention as
The British embassy in Cuba confirmed consular access had been granted,
Bernard Garside, its consul in Havana, would make the visit later on Tuesday.
The Cuban decision followed a sharply worded statement from Britain's junior
Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain.
The Foreign Office was verbally notified on October 9 by Cuban authorities
five men and one woman had been detained.
"It is unacceptable that six British nationals are being held in Cuba without
explanation and without access," junior Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said in
an earlier statement.
"Our charge d'affaires (in Havana) has demanded that we be given immediate
access. If this is not forthcoming I will be calling in the Cuban charge d'affaires
tomorrow to demand an explanation," he added.
It was unknown who the group were, what they were doing in Cuba, or where
they were being held.
'Tribute to relationship'
"The Cubans have not informed us what the reasons are, and we can't confirm
them until we have seen them," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
When asked why it had taken two weeks to make a statement urging the Cubans
to give access, another Foreign Office official replied: "We have been pressing
the Cubans on a daily basis to let us have access."
Hain said the detainees and their relatives had a right to know why they
being held. "And the British government has a right to offer them consular
protection," he added.
The Cuban embassy in London declined to comment about the detentions.
Only a month ago two Britons were released from a Cuban prison in what
Caribbean island's communist government said was "a tribute to the strength of
its bilateral relationship with the UK."
Rachel McGee and Michelle Malcolm, jailed in 1999 for 15 years each on
drug-trafficking charges, were freed during a visit to Cuba by Patricia Scotland,
parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Caribbean.
Reuters contributed to this report.