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Raul Castro says he laments death of Cuban dissident

MEXICO CITY — Cuban President Raul Castro made the rare gesture Wednesday of lamenting the death of a political prisoner who succumbed after an 85-day hunger strike, according to international news agencies reporting from Havana.

Castro spoke during a tour of Cuba's Mariel port with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and a statement containing his remarks was sent to Havana-based journalists.

He was commenting on the death Tuesday of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a plumber imprisoned in 2003 and serving 36 years for disobedience toward the government, among other charges.

Zapata, 42, was staging a hunger strike to protest conditions in Cuban jails. His death drew condemnation from Amnesty International and several countries, including the United States.

Zapata's mother, Reina, bitterly decried her son's death.

"I want the world to see my pain," she said in a video posted on a dissident Web site. "The death of my son was a premeditated murder. He was tortured."

Castro denied that Zapata was tortured or executed.

Raul Castro says he laments death of Cuban dissident 02/24/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 25, 2010 12:15am]
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