20 May 2005
PRAGUE/BERLIN - A Czech senator and a German member of parliament were expelled from Cuba for planning to meet dissident opponents of Cuban president Fidel Castro, officials in Prague and Berlin confirmed on Friday, while two Polish journalists were detained for the same reason. The European Union responded on Friday by threatening to reimpose sanctions on Cuba.
In Brussels, the European Commission expressed regret at the move. "These are not the right steps," said a Commission spokesman, warning the EU could again impose sanctions on Cuba as early as June.
Previous EU sanctions in protest over human rights shortcomings and the lack of democracy were suspended in January.
Czech senator Karel Schwarzenberg and German Christian Democratic parliament member Arnold Vaatz were deported from Cuba, according to a Czech Senate spokesman and the German foreign ministry.
Schwarzenberg is one of many Czech leaders who support the Cuban democracy movement. Czechs ousted a communist regime in the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
In recent years ex-dissident and former Czech president Vaclav Havel has met Cuban dissidents several times in Miami and Prague. Schwarzenberg is a former chief of Havel's presidential office.
Vaatz is a former East German dissident who helped lead protests which led to the 1989 collapse of the communist regime in East Berlin followed by the 1990 German reunification.
"I was not able to speak to any member of the German embassy in Havana. This is a clear violation of international law," said Vaatz in comments to Deutsche Presse-Agentur after his arrival at Madrid airport on Friday.
Vaatz said Cuban police came to his hotel, took away his passport and airline ticket and then held him for over an hour in the building's underground parking lot before taking him to the airport.
A German foreign ministry spokesman, Jens Ploetner, said the Cuban ambassador to Germany had been summoned by the government to explain why Vaatz had been expelled.
"It is the legitimate right of every politician who visits Cuba to meet with the full spectrum of political groups," said Ploetner.
Ploetner underlined that the German embassy would send an observer to the meeting which Vaatz had planned to attend.
Czech senate spokesman Petr Kostka said Schwarzenberg had travelled alone this week and was allowed to enter Cuba on a diplomatic passport. But later he was told to leave.
"He was there on the invitation of dissidents," Kostka told DPA, without elaborating.
Earlier this week Cuban authorities refused entry to two European Parliament deputies from Poland who planned to participate in a congress of the dissident group Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society (APSC). The European Commission expressed regret over the incident.
Cuban authorities on Friday also detained two Polish journalists who were planning to meet with representatives of the opposition, TVN24 news channel reported on Friday.
The two were identified as Seweryn Blumsztajn of the Gazeta Wyborcza daily and Jerzy Jurecki of the Tygodnik Podhalanski weekly.
Jurecki contacted TVN24 by telephone, saying the two were being held in a detention centre near the airport in Havana and were likely to be deported.
In 2001, two Czech senators were arrested in Cuba. They were allowed to go home only after apologising to Castro for allegedly mixing with Havana dissidents.
Polish politicians said this week they intend to petition the European Union to impose diplomatic sanctions against Cuba in response to the recent wave of deportations.
Subject: German news
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