About 30 ''Ladies in White'' were stopped on the march in Havana

Cuban police have arrested the wives and mothers of political dissidents at a demonstration in the capital, Havana.

About 30 members of the "Ladies in White" were stopped as they marched alongside the mother of a prisoner who died last month after a hunger strike.

They were demanding the release of some 50 government critics who are still being held after mass arrests in 2003.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was the first Cuban activist to starve himself to death in protest in nearly 40 years.

The case of Zapata, declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, drew international condemnation and calls for the immediate release of all Cuba's detained dissidents.

Wednesday's protest was the third held this week by the Ladies in White (Las Damas de Blanca) to mark the anniversary of the crackdown in the one-party Communist state seven years ago.

Government supporters heckled the women at the beginning of the march
The women were heckled by hundreds of government supporters as they left a church in the Parraga neighbourhood with Reyna Luisa Tamayo, who alleges that her son was tortured in jail and that his death amounted to premeditated murder.

Police officers and interior ministry agents later asked the women to end their march and take shelter in two government buses. After they repeatedly refused, several female officers moved in and put them onto the buses by force.

The Cuban government describes the dissidents as common criminals who were paid by the United States to destabilise the country.

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