By Anita Snow
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, January 16, 2001; 9:57 AM
HAVANA Two Czech citizens including a former finance minister will be tried for allegedly acting as agents for anti-communist Cuban-American exiles, the government said Tuesday.
The Czechs "will be placed at the disposition of the courts, which will decide the appropriate measures to be taken," said a statement in the Communist Party daily Granma. It was Cuba's first public statement on the pair.
The two Czechs are former Finance Minister Ivan Pilip, now a member of parliament, and Jan Bubenik, a member of a Czech pro-democracy foundation. Cuban immigration officials detained them Friday in Ciego de Avila, 185 miles southeast of Havana.
The men were arrested after meeting with two Cuban government opponents. The dissidents were questioned and released, but the Czechs were transferred to Havana, where they remain in jail.
Granma said the two are accused of violating immigration laws because their activities were not consistent with their tourist visas. They were "following instructions from people in the Cuban-American mafia in the United States, and came dedicated to maintaining subversive contacts with members of the counterrevolutionary groups in this country," it said.
The pair arrived on Jan. 8 from Cancun, Mexico, after previously traveling to New York, New Jersey and Miami, the newspaper said.
"The visit had nothing to do with tourism and their real purpose was to contact counterrevolutionary elements, give them instructions and provide them with resources," Granma said.
On Monday, the Czech Foreign Ministry summoned the top Cuban diplomat in Prague to protest the men's detention. It demanded an explanation and the pair's immediate release.
Granma responded to that demand Tuesday.
"The Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic, with its haughtiness, arrogance and stridence, has protested the arrests of these men employed by the empire," or the United States, Granma said. "But their hysterical cries have no value, just as the Czech government gave no importance to its shameful role as an instrument of the United States in the infamous accusations against Cuba in the (U.N.) Human Rights Commission in Geneva."
Cuba's communist government was infuriated last April when the Czech Republic and Poland introduced a U.N. human rights resolution to censure the Caribbean nation.
The U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva subsequently censured Cuba for the second consecutive year, voting 21 to 18 to criticize it for "the continued violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms." Fourteen members abstained.