Pilip detained in Cuba after reported meeting with opposition

15-01-2001

The Czech MP Ivan Pilip was detained on Friday during a private visit to Cuba, apparently after meeting members of the Cuban opposition movement. Mr Pilip was detained along with his Czech travelling companion Jan Bubenik, and their arrest has sent minor shockwaves through the Czech political establishment, as Lucie Krupickova explains:

Ivan Pilip is a former Czech Education Minister and also Finance Minister. Two years ago he was one of the founders of the Freedom Union. Jan Bubenik was one of the student leaders of the Velvet Revolution, which toppled the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989.

The Czech chargé d'affaires in Havana finally succeeded to talk in person to both gentlemen on Sunday. He said that the two men had been questioned by Cuban police, and that both were in good physical and psychological shape. The Cuban authorities have only announced that the two 'violated the regulations of their visit' to the Caribbean island.

Freedom Union spokesman Patrik Nacher says he was unaware of Mr. Pilip's trip to Cuba, adding that as far as he knew his colleague left for a private visit to the United States six days ago. Unconfirmed reports say that the two men were trying to make contact with Cuban opposition groups. The Czech Foreign Ministry says their arrest is groundless and is demanding their release according to international law.

Cuba reacted furiously last April after a joint Czech-Polish resolution was submitted to the UN condemning human rights abuses in Cuba. The country accused Czech diplomats in Havana of initiating subversive activities against the Cuban government and supporting counter-revolution forces. Thousands of Cubans marched in protest past the Czech embassy. What reaction awaits Mr Pilip's mysterious visit remains to be seen.

15-01-2001