Italian activists join wives of political prisoners during weekly march


Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) - A small group of Italian activists joined the wives of Cuban political prisoners during their silent weekly march after Sunday Mass to call for their husbands' release.
"We are with you for the liberty of the political prisoners," European Union deputy Marco Cappato said on behalf of his Transnational Radical Party. Cappato was among five Italians who joined about 40 wives and other female relatives of jailed Cuban dissidents marching quietly along Havana's Fifth Avenue.
Known as the "Ladies in White" for the white clothes they don for their walk outside the Roman Catholic St. Rita Church, the women on Sunday also marked the fourth anniversary of a government crackdown that rounded up 75 opponents -- including many of their own husbands and sons.
U.S. Interests Section head Michael Parmly, who regularly attends Mass at the same church, was among parishioners who quietly watched the march from the street. He was dressed all in white himself.
The Italian activists said they had not received government approval to join the women in their weekly low-key protest, but said they did not think they would have a problem because they are pacifists. However, Cuba's communist government generally takes a dim view of foreigners who participate in dissident activities, often accusing them of meddling in internal affairs.
"We are proud of these young people," Laura Pollan, wife of jailed dissident Hector Palacios, said of the Italians. "I think they should be an example both inside and outside Cuba."