There was no immediate reaction from Fidel Castro's communist government to the school, located in a converted barn on the outskirts of the Cuban capital. The government is likely to shut it down once authorities learn of its existence.
About two dozen people showed up for the first day of classes, which opened with a prayer by the Rev. Pedro Crespo Jimenez, of the Orthodox Church of Cuba.
Crespo sat at a battered desk on which sat two books: the Bible and ``Democratic Ideas: Weapons of Liberty.'' Cuban flags hanging from the back wall and down the front of the desk were displayed upside down, a symbol of civil disobedience.
The school is a new concept for Cuba's mostly timid opposition, which, unlike political dissidents in many other countries, does not hold public marches or other types of demonstrations. Protests are small, generally less than a dozen people, and always held in homes or on other private property.
The school was opened by a group calling itself the Civic Brotherhood. Also on hand were members of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, whose members recently held a 40-day liquid-only fast to demand the release of political prisoners.
Both groups are illegal under Cuban law.
Opponents gathered for the school inauguration also held a six-hour fast in support of jailed dissident Marta Beatriz Roque, who reportedly began a hunger strike the same day.
Roque is one of four opposition leaders who were imprisoned earlier this year following their conviction for inciting sedition. That case has gained broad international attention and calls from the Canadian government, the European Union and others for the dissidents' release.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press