Freedom House Honors Czechs Detained in Cuba
Freedom House is co-sponsoring a reception to honor Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik, two prominent citizens of the Czech Republic recently jailed in Cuba for 23 days for meeting with some of the island's democratic and human rights activists. The reception will take place at 2172 Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, March 14 and will be co-sponsored by Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL), Chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
Mr. Pilip, a former finance and education minister and current deputy in the Czech parliament's lower house, and Mr. Bubenik, a student leader in the 1989 Velvet Revolution and former deputy, were arrested January 12, 2001 after meeting with Cuban democratic activists in the central Cuban province of Ciego de Avila. They were accused of working as U.S. agents and engaging in "counter-revolutionary activity," according to Cuba's state controlled newspaper, Granma.
Mr. Pilip and Mr. Bubenik were held in illegal detention in a Havana jail for more than three weeks. Their release came in the wake of broad-ranging protests from foreign governments and non-governmental groups. The U.S. government, European governments, and the European Union criticized the arrests and reproached the Cuban government for human rights violations.
The Czech citizens are among hundreds of people each year who seek to reach out to the Cuban people for the purpose of informing them about events outside their country. State-controlled media in Cuba do not allow for the expression and dissemination of alternative viewpoints on the island.
The event will take place Wednesday, March 14 from 6-8 PM, with the program beginning promptly at 6:30 PM. It will be held at 2172 Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill. Both Mr. Pilip and Mr. Bubenik will speak after statements by Congressman Hyde and Freedom House representatives.
"Freedom House maintains programs throughout the world that promote contacts among democratic activists. One such program focuses on Cuba," said Freedom House executive director Jennifer Windsor. "Such efforts are considered to be a normal activity in most countries. But in Cuba, those engaging in such contacts are subject to harassment and intimidation."
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.