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Sunday, 21 January, 2001, 14:46 GMT
Czech prisoners in good health
Pilip's wife, Lucie Pilipova and their one-year-old son
Mr Pilip's wife has travelled to Cuba
A Czech diplomat, Josef Marsicek, has visited two Czech citizens being detained on subversion charges in Cuba.

Mr Marsicek is reported to have found the former Finance Minister, Ivan Pilip, and the former student leader, Jan Bubenik, in good health.

Jan Bubenik
Jan Bubenik: A student leader from the 1989 Velvet Revolution
A Czech foreign ministry spokesman, Ales Pospisil, told the CTK news agency that the two detainees felt well, but the conditions in which they were being held are very unpleasant.

The European Parliament had accused the Cuban government of violating fundamental rights by refusing to allow consular access to the detained men.

European and Latin American countries have called for the release of the two men who were arrested nearly 10 days ago after meeting Cuban student dissidents.

Appeal for help

Mr Pilip's wife and Mr Bubenik's brother have travelled to Havana in the hope of meeting the two detainees, after Cuba granted them visas.

The Czech authorities have found Cuban lawyers for the two men, but they can only meet them on Monday - the same day the prosecutor is to decide on future steps to be taken in the case.

Ivan Pilip
Former Finance Minister Ivan Pilip: Detained on subversion charges
The judge could decide then to release the two Czechs, to grant bail, deport them, or keep them under arrest pending trial.

The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, has appealed for help from Mexico, Chile, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Czech Republic have broken down since the arrest.

Cuban authorities have accused Mr Pilip, currently a Czech MP, and Mr Bubenik, who was a leader in the 1989 anti-Communist Velvet Revolution, of being American agents.

'Counter-revolutionaries'

Cuba has made no official comment on the case, but published accusations in the Communist Party's official newspaper that the two men were US-backed "counter-revolutionary" troublemakers.

Cuba and the Czech Republic, once socialist allies, have had tense relations since the Czechs sponsored a UN condemnation of Havana's human-rights record last April.

In two cases last year - one involving a meeting between two Swedish journalists and dissident Cuban reporters, and another where a retired US academic met opposition figures - the government chose to deport the foreigners rather than bring charges.

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See also:

19 Jan 01 | Americas
Czechs call for pressure on Castro
14 Dec 00 | Americas
Cuba and Russia form new ties
13 Dec 00 | Americas
Our comrades in Havana
27 Apr 00 | Americas
What's life really like in Cuba?
18 Apr 00 | Americas
Cubans protest UN censure
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