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Prominent blogger abducted, beaten

International community should condemn government attacks, says Human Rights Watch

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - Washington, DC, November 7, 2009 - Cuban authorities should cease all attacks on human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and civic activists, Human Rights Watch said today. The international community should condemn attacks on those who peacefully exercise their basic rights to freedom of expression, opinion, and assembly in the strongest terms.

On November 6, Cuba's most prominent blogger, Yoani Sánchez, together with blogger Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo, were abducted by three men. Sánchez and Pardo were forced into an unmarked vehicle, beaten, and threatened by their captors before being released onto the street.

"The Cuban authorities are using brute force to try to silence Yoani Sánchez's only weapon: her ideas," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch. "The international community must send a firm message to Raul Castro that such attacks on independent voices are completely unacceptable."

Sánchez and Pardo had been walking to attend a "march against violence" in Havana when they were abducted. When Sánchez called for help and bystanders started to intervene, one of the captors warned the other civilians, "Don't get involved, these people are counterrevolutionaries."

Sánchez wrote that, while in the car, "one man put his knee on my chest and the other, from the seat next to me, was punching me in the face." The captors told Sanchez that her "clowning around" was finished.

Cuba is the only country in the region that continues to repress virtually all forms of political dissent.

"This brazen attack makes clear that no one in Cuba who voices dissent is safe from violent reprisals," said Vivanco.
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