Friday, October 14, 2011

Cuba 'Ladies in White' founder Laura Pollan dies

Cuba 'Ladies in White' founder Laura Pollan dies
15 October 2011 Last updated at 01:34 GMT

The leader of the influential Cuban protest group, Ladies in White, has
died in the capital, Havana.

Laura Pollan, who was 63 years old, had been in hospital for a week
suffering from Dengue fever.

She founded the group 10 years ago when her husband was jailed.

The group's members, dressed in white, gathered in central Havana at the
weekends to demand freedom for a group of 75 men imprisoned during
government repression in 2003.

After being hospitalised, Pollan developed severe respiratory problems.

Her daughter, Laura Labrada, said she had had a tracheotomy.
'Never-ending story'

Initially composed of family members of those dissidents, the group
later championed wider human rights issues, and continued to campaign
for the release of all political prisoners in Cuba, even after all 75
were freed.

Laura Pollan's husband, Hector Maseda, was among the least of the 75 to
be freed in February this year.

"As long as this government is around there will be prisoners," she said
in the interview with the Associated Press. "Because while they've let
some go, they've put others in jail. It is a never-ending story."

In 2005, the group was awarded the Sakharov prize by the European

And earlier this year, the Ladies in White received the US government's
Human Rights Defender Award for what Washington called their exceptional
valour in protecting human rights in the face of government repression.

Ladies in White have often faced harassment from groups of government

The communist authorities say such demonstrations are spontaneous
reactions by ordinary Cubans, but the opposition say they are
orchestrated by the government.

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