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Cuba: Arrest of human rights defenders and members of the Damas de Blanco Laura Pollán and denial of the right to freedom of assembly
On 18 July 2012, Ms Tatiana López Blanco, Ms Leonor Reinó Borge, Ms Mirta Gómez Colás and Ms Niurkis Rivero Despaigne were detained by Department of State Security agents in Havana.
The aforementioned human rights defenders are all members of the prominent human rights organisation Damas de Blanco Laura Pollán(Ladies in White), which advocates for the release of political prisoners in Cuba.
On 18 July 2012, agents of the Department of State Security went to the homes of Tatiana López Blanco, Leonor Reinó Borge, Mirta Gómez Colás and Niurkis Rivero Despaigne and arrested them in order to prevent them from participating in the monthly Té Literario (literary tea gathering) organised by the Damas de Blanco which takes place at the home of their deceased leader Ms Laura Pollán.
Previously on 16 July 2012 it was reported that an agent had visited the homes of other members of the human rights organisation, including Ms Ivonne Malleza Galano, nominee for the 2012 Front Line Defenders Award for human rights defenders at risk, Magaly Norvis Otero, Mercedes Fresneda Castillo, Belkis Jorrín Morfa, Belkis Nuñez Fajardo, Raquel Castillo, Zahira Castro and Mayra Morejón, to inform them that the Té Literario would not be permitted to take place and that should they attempt to attend it they would be arrested and held for three days. Ms Omaglis Gonzaléz Leiva and Ms María Elena Matos were detained in Palmarito de Cauto, in the municipality of Santiago de Cuba as they attempted to hold a parallel event.
Front Line Defenders believes that the arrests of the aforementioned human rights defenders, as well as the threats of arrest, are directly related to their legitimate work in defence of human rights. The regular prevention of the peaceful monthly Té Literario by police, who block off access to the home of Laura Pollán on the date of the planned event, constitutes a clear denial of the right to freedom of assembly in Cuba. Members of the Damas de Blanco continue to face harassment and physical attacks from police around the island as they attempt to carry out their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.