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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Cuban dissident 'badly beaten up'
Cuban dissident Martha Beatriz Roque
Martha Beatriz Roque has been jailed twice in recent years
A leading Cuban dissident has said she was badly beaten up by government supporters as she headed for a meeting organised by United States officials.

Martha Beatriz Roque said about a dozen people pushed her to the ground in front of her Havana home and one of them punched her in the face.

The 60-year-old economist was jailed in 2003 with 74 other dissidents but was freed a year later on health grounds.

Fidel Castro's government says its opponents are paid agents of the US.

Ms Roque said that a group of people gathered outside her home on Tuesday.

As she left to go to a meeting at the residence of the head of the US interests section, Michael Parmly, they pushed and shoved her to the ground.

A man then entered the building and hit her in the face after she shouted "Down with Fidel".

"They have been bothering Martha for months, but this is the first time she has been treated so brutally," Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights, told Reuters.


Ms Roque last July organised a defiant public meeting of dissidents, during which they played a video message of support from President George W Bush.

The dissident, who says she suffers from diabetes and circulation problems, said the incident had left her "very scarred".

"I feel very poorly, from the physical point of view, I have a great deal of pain, but also from the psychological point of view I am just devastated," she told the AFP news agency.

President Castro says that Cuban dissidents are mercenaries in the pay of the US, which has maintained an economic embargo on the island for decades, and are not representative of public opinion.

Human rights groups say attacks on dissidents are increasing and are part of organised attempts to intimidate government critics.

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