Demand issued over Czechs held in Cuba
PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Czech officials have demanded the immediate
release of two prominent Czechs detained in Cuba after meeting local
A resolution describing the detention as "unjustified" was adopted by parliament
on Thursday with 118 votes in favour, two against and 20 abstentions.
Former Czech Finance Minister and
now parliamentary deputy Ivan Pilip and former finance minister Jan Bubenik
were arrested on January 12 in the central province of Ciego de Avila, accused
of acting against Cuban security and inciting rebellion.
If convicted, they could face sentences of up to 20 years.
The incident has further embittered already hostile ties between communist-run
Cuba and its one-time socialist bloc ally, whose president, Vaclav Havel, is
himself a former anti-communist dissident.
In a letter provided by the Cuban foreign ministry to members of the Czech
Communist Party on Wednesday, the two men were accused of gathering
information and providing instructions to Cuban dissidents.
The letter, also published on the official Web site of the Cuban Foreign
suggests Prague apologises for the incident.
"We have not received any official information so we have nothing to respond
to," a Czech Foreign Ministry press official said.
Cuban charge d'affaires in Prague David Paulovich said the Czech ministry
awaiting official information "in vain," adding it was the Czechs' turn to act.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told parliament he was coordinating
international efforts to win the prisoners' release.
Kavan said the Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation, led by its secretary-general
Anders Johnsson, that will travel to Cuba next week.
Responding to a request for help from Havel, European Commission President
Romano Prodi also called for their release.