Havel praises Pilip, Bubenik for supporting democracy, human rights in Cuba
By Rob Cameron
The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, has praised MP Ivan Pilip and former student leader Jan Bubenik for supporting democracy and human rights in Cuba, a day after they returned to Prague following three weeks in a Cuban prison. President Havel received the two men at Prague Castle, following their overnight return from Havana. The two were detained on charges of undermining the Cuban regime after they handed over materials to Cuban dissidents in a secret meeting on January 12th. They were released after signing a confession in which they admitted to violating Cuban law. President Havel said their release was primarily due to efforts by the chairman of the Czech Senate, Petr Pithart, who held several hours of talks in Havana at the weekend with the Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Pilip: Freedom House operations in serious jeopardy
Mr Pilip told reporters on Tuesday that the operations of the U.S.-based organisation Freedom House, which was involved in sending the two to Cuba, had been seriously jeopardised by the affair. He said the organisation had contacted him two years ago, and that last month's fateful visit was not his first to the island. Mr Pilip said it would now be highly difficult for Freedom House to recruit volunteers to travel to Cuba, an outcome which he said was one of the aims of the Cuban authorities when they arrested him.
Klaus says sorry to Pithart after criticising Cuban mission
Meanwhile the leader of the Czech lower house, Vaclav Klaus, has apologised to the upper house chairman Petr Pithart, after criticising his efforts to secure the two men's release. Mr Klaus had said in a statement released on Monday, 24 hours before the men were set free, that Mr Pithart's week-long mission to Cuba had been a failure. His words were heavily criticised by Mr Pilip's Freedom Union party and the Czech media. Mr Pithart has accepted his apology.
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