Cuban Dissident Freed From Detention

By Michelle Ray Ortiz
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, August 17, 1999; 4:14 p.m. EDT

HAVANA (AP) -- A leading Cuban dissident said Tuesday that he was held in captivity for two days and beaten by police who warned him to halt his protests against alleged human rights violations.

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet spoke to reporters a day after he said police released him. He showed a burn mark on his right arm that he said was caused by a cigar one officer pressed against his skin. He said another officer beat him in the face and neck.

The Cuban government made no comment on Biscet's allegations, and there was no official confirmation of his arrest. Cuba maintains that it holds no political prisoners, only common criminals.

Biscet said he and three other dissidents were arrested Saturday night in Pedro Betancourt, a town in the province of Matanzas, about 75 miles east of Havana, where he had given a lecture on civil disobedience.

The three other dissidents, along with independent journalist Angel Polanco, who was detained with them, were released on Sunday, Polanco said. Biscet said he was taken to a Havana prison and held until Monday evening.

``They threatened that if I continued with my activities they would seize me immediately,'' Biscet said.

Biscet, president of a human rights group, the Lawton Foundation, recently led a 40-day fast by Cuban dissidents to demand the release of prisoners who they argue are being held for political reasons. The protest, which involved small groups from across Cuba, ended on July 24.

Biscet, who believes his detention came in response to the protest, said he has been detained at least 17 times since last November.

He said he would continue his civil disobedience activities, ``until the people of Cuba achieve liberty.''

Biscet, 38, spoke to reporters Tuesday at Polanco's home. Polanco said more than two dozen police officers were seen monitoring his home before and during the news conference.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press