Dozens Arrested at Funeral of Longtime Cuban Activist Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

Press Release
July 25, 2012

Dozens Arrested at Funeral of Longtime Cuban Activist Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

200 State Security Officers Rough Up Mourners; Very Kind of Repression Payá Dedicated His Life to Combating

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, @spksingh

(Washington, D.C.) – Amnesty International today condemned the arrest and short-term detention of more than 40 activists at the funeral of human rights activist Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, saying the act exemplified ongoing repression against dissidents on the island.

As many as 200 state security and police officers descended on the street outside the Havana church and roughed up the mourners, bundling them into buses, Elizardo Sánchez, president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, told Amnesty International. Among those arrested were former prisoner of conscience Félix Navarro Rodríguez and outspoken dissident journalist Guillermo Fariñas.

"Tuesday's events follow the pattern of short-term detention and imprisonment we have seen in Cuba time and again," said Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty International's Cuba researcher. "Indeed, it was the very kind of repression and intimidation which Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas dedicated his life to combating."

Journalist Guillermo Fariñas said the police pushed him to the ground outside the church, before forcing him to board the bus with around 20 other mourners, the majority of whom were also mistreated by police. Many shouted chants including "Long live Oswaldo!" and "Freedom for Cuba!"

Detainees were held at different locations in the capital Havana. Most of them, including Fariñas and Rodríguez, were released several hours later and it appears those remaining were let go on Wednesday morning.

"The authorities don’t want the public to know how many people were there," Guillermo Fariñas told Amnesty International after his release. "We're not afraid of them."

Payá, whose funeral the activists were attending, was leader of the "Liberation" Christian Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, MCL) and had spent time in a Cuban labor camp in the 1960s. On Sunday, the longtime activist fell victim to a road accident in eastern Cuba's Granma Province.

An official investigation has been opened into his death as his family members raised questions about the exact circumstances of the car crash.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.