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Cuba denies dissident beaten by police before death

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
Cuban opposition activists are arrested by police in Santa Clara on January 28, 2011.
Cuban opposition activists are arrested by police in Santa Clara on January 28, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Juan Wilfredo Soto died in a hospital on Sunday in central Cuban city of Santa Clara
  • State-run website says Soto was detained, but released three hours later without incident
  • Fellow dissidents say Soto was beaten by police, who caused his death
  • Arnaldo Milian Hospital said he had died of pancreatitis
RELATED TOPICS
  • Cuba
  • Police

Havana (CNN) -- Cuba denied on Monday that the recent death of a dissident was caused by a police beating and accused "counterrevolutionaries" and the foreign media of "fabricating lies."

Juan Wilfredo Soto died in a hospital on Sunday in the central city of Santa Clara. He had been detained by police three days earlier. Fellow dissidents accused police of beating him and causing his death. The Arnaldo Milian Hospital said he had died of pancreatitis.

The state-run, Spanish-language website www.cubadebate.cu repeated those claims in an article posted on Monday night titled "A press release from the Cuban government: Cuba denies the campaign about the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia."

According to the article, Soto died a "natural death" brought on by an "acute pancreatitis."

"There were no internal or external signs of violence," the article said.

According to Lizet Zamora, an anti-government activist also from Santa Clara, the police are to blame.

"We know his death was caused by the police beating," she told CNN by telephone. Zamora attended Soto's funeral.

According to Zamora and other dissidents, Soto was detained by police on Thursday and was beaten in public view in a park when he tried to resist arrest. She said she saw a cell phone recording of the beating.

The state-run website confirmed that Soto had been detained, but said he was released "three hours later without any incident whatsoever."

Soto was not well-known outside of Santa Clara, but according to Zamora, he was active within the dissident community there. His funeral was held on Sunday.

The article accused the foreign media, "fundamentally from Europe and the United States," of amplifying lies told by dissidents.

"External and internal enemies try to distort the Cuban reality and undermine the international prestige of the Revolution and its moral strength," the article concluded.

 
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