2 Students Join 5 Cuban Activists Seeking Refuge in Czech Embassy

From Times Wire Services

Seven Cubans, including five opposition activists, have sought refuge in Czechoslovakia's Havana Embassy, the Czech CTK news agency reported today in Prague.

Czechoslovak Embassy press attache Lubomir Hladik told Reuters in Havana that two students climbed over the embassy wall Monday afternoon, minutes before Cuban police arrived and hours after five Cuban dissidents had entered the embassy.

CTK's French-language service said the dissidents entered the embassy to demand Czech guarantees that they could leave Cuba for a planned weeklong visit to Czechoslovakia beginning July 15.

"They are asking for guarantees to be able to work and engage in politics," Hladik told reporters at the embassy in Havana's Nuevo Vedado district.

The visit was to be part of a tour of Europe and the United States "aimed at spreading the aims and programs of the Cuban opposition movement," CTK said. It did not elaborate.

Zdenek Smrkovsky, a Foreign Ministry official in Prague, said the first five men walked inside the embassy through the main door on Monday without incident. He said as far as he knew, there were no other cases of people seeking refuge in any other embassies in Havana.

He said the men "did not seek political asylum."

The two Cuban students climbed over the embassy's fence later and did ask for political asylum, CTK said. Cuban police then cordoned off the street leading to the mission, the news agency said.

It identified the two as Igor Campana and Alejandro R. Lugo.

Yugoslavia's Tanjug news agency quoted an unidentified spokesperson at the Cuban Foreign Ministry as saying the five opposition leaders "must leave the embassy or stay there as long as the diplomatic mission would have them." He was quoted before the last two people entered the embassy.

The activists belong to the Cuban Human Rights Committee, the Cuban Christian Democratic Movement and other opposition groups, CTK said.

The five were the first ever to obtain refuge in an East European embassy in Havana and the incident reflected political differences that have surfaced between Cuba and Czechoslovakia since the fall of the Communist government there.

Cuba and Czechoslovakia were close allies before last winter's democratic revolution swept Czechoslovakia's Communist regime from power.

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