HAVANA – Prominent Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas has been released after 25 hours in custody in the central city of Santa Clara, part of a wave of arrests of government opponents in the central part of the communist-ruled island.
Fariñas said that he was freed Friday morning due to health problems stemming from the two-dozen hunger strikes he has staged over the past several years to protest government repression of basic freedoms.
According to the independent journalist, more than 40 people in Santa Clara and other towns in Villa Clara province, as well as in the nearby provinces of Sancti Spiritus and Cienfuegos, were arrested after planning to participate in a peaceful march.
The title given to the protest made reference to two late dissidents – Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata – who died in 1972 and 2010, respectively, after lengthy hunger strikes behind bars.
Fariñas said the march’s organizer, former political prisoner Angel Moya, was still being held at the police station in Santo Domingo, a town 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Santa Clara.
Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, had already confirmed Fariñas’ release in a statement, saying he had been held for 25 hours in a police lockup in Santa Clara.
The commission said that at least 33 dissidents were arrested Thursday in several towns in Villa Clara province and that the figure could be as high as 40.
Besides Fariñas, another seven government opponents held Thursday have since been released, according to Sanchez, who characterized the arrests as “arbitrary” detentions of peaceful dissidents.
The human rights activist said that in the first half of September alone authorities made more than 200 “short-term” arrests (of hours or days) of government critics.
Fariñas, recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, has been briefly arrested on several occasions this year.
Other detainees Thursday included Moya, part of a group of 75 dissidents who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2003 for allegedly conspiring with the United States to undermine the communist regime.
He was eventually released from prison in February following Spanish-supported talks between President Raul Castro and Cuba’s Catholic hierarchy.
Most members of the Group of 75 were freed in 2010 but Moya and several others remained behind bars for several months because they refused to accept going into exile in Spain.
Moya is still in custody, said his wife, Berta Soler, spokeswoman for the Ladies in White opposition movement that campaigns for the release of political prisoners.
Soler said by phone from Santa Clara – some 300 kilometers (185 miles) east of Havana – that police authorities told her they would transfer Moya to Havana on Saturday but did not indicate if he would be released.