Prominent Cuban dissident assaulted

Cuba's most prominent female dissident says she was brutally beaten at her home by a pro-government mob of people who knew she was heading to a meeting at the home of the top US diplomat in Havana.

    Marta Beatriz Roque, 60, was released from jail in July 2004

    "I see it as a (government) message to the opposition," ailing economist Marta Beatriz Roque, 60, told AFP on Wednesday at her home, where she showed injuries to her eye, knee  and elbow which she said were from the assault a day earlier.

    Roque, who opposes the Americas' only one-party communist  government, leads the Assembly for Promoting Civil Society.

    She was released from prison in July 2004 due to her failing  health after she had been convicted and sentenced to 20 years behind  bars along with 74 other dissidents following the government's 2003 crackdown, which was the largest in years.

    She said she recognised some of the people who beginning at 2130 GMT on Tuesday shouted insults at her and beat her outside and later inside her home in the Havana neighbourhood of Santos Suarez.

    "They were not neighbours, because they knew that I had been  invited to a meeting at the home of (Michael) Parmly," chief of the US Interests Section in Havana, who has had high-profile clashes in the media with Fidel Castro's government.

    The crowd gathered for an organised "act of repudiation" as  Roque left for the engagement, she said, and began insulting her and then jostled her to block her from leaving her home.

    'Down with Fidel'

    "They threw me on the ground and they beat me," said Roque, who says she suffers from diabetes and circulatory ailments.

    When she shouted "Down with Fidel!" she was further beaten by a  large man who burst into her home and slugged her squarely in the eye, she said.

    Roque opposes the Americas'
    only one-party government

    The crowd continued its "repudiation" until the early hours of  Wednesday, Roque said. Pro-government activists threw clippings from the official media through the windows of her home, as well as a sign calling George Bush, the US president, a fascist.

    On the back of the sign a message was scrawled, warning that a dissident meeting planned for October "is not going to be held," she said.

    Elizardo Sanchez, who leads the outlawed Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, added that the attackers remained at Roque's home for some time, blocking her from seeking immediate medical attention for her injuries.

    "This is particularly alarming, given precisely the brutal nature of the attack and the fact that those para-police elements who took part committed a whole range of crimes, with complete impunity and under the approving gaze of the government of Cuba," said Sanchez.



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