Cuba Hospitalizes Dissident After Wife's Protest
Thu Oct 7, 2004 08:46 PM ET


HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban authorities transferred a jailed dissident suffering from a herniated disc to a military hospital on Thursday after his wife staged an unprecedented protest in Havana's Revolution Square.

Human rights activist Angel Moya, aged 40 and serving a 20-year prison sentence, was brought from Las Mangas jail in the eastern province of Granma to the Carlos Finlay Hospital in Havana for a back operation, his wife Berta Soler said.

"He can't walk or sit because of the pain. He looks like an old man," Soler said after seeing her husband for the first time since July 16.

Soler and five other wives of jailed dissidents -- dressed entirely in white -- camped out for almost two days in a park adjacent to Revolution Square.

The vast, open square is communist-run Cuba's political heart, site of speeches to mass rallies by Cuban leader Fidel Castro since his revolution triumphed in 1959.

On Thursday before dawn, Soler's protest was shut down by security agents who hustled the women away and drove them to their homes in police cars.

The protest began on Tuesday when Soler delivered a letter addressed to Castro at the Communist Party headquarters above the square requesting her ailing husband's transfer to a civilian hospital. She then planted herself in the park demanding to see her husband.

Moya was sentenced to 20 years in prison last year during a crackdown on dissent that led to the jailing of 75 opponents. In recent months, Cuban authorities have freed seven of the dissidents on health grounds.

The wives and mothers of jailed dissidents, known as the "ladies in white," have staged marches and held candlelight vigils dressed in white to demand their men be freed.

But this was the first time they had protested in Revolution Square, one of the best guarded places in Cuba.

"We cannot sit at home and wait for a letter. We have to go and press the government for answers," Soler said. "It was my right and duty as a wife."