Cuba's Ladies In White Protesters Arrested In Havana

Dozens of members of the influential Cuban protest group Ladies in White have been arrested in Havana.

Ladies in White are campaigning for the release of all political prisonersDozens of members of the influential Cuban protest group Ladies in White have been arrested in Havana.

They were held while taking part in a regular Sunday silent march in the capital to demand the release of political prisoners.

The group says the country's Communist authorities have increased pressure on them in recent days, threatening and harassing them.

The government says they are paid by the US to undermine Cuba's revolution.

This Sunday marks the ninth anniversary of the arrests of 75 opponents of the Cuban government.

The political prisoners were released in 2010, following a deal brokered by the Roman Catholic Church.

But the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) have continued their weekly marches, saying there are still more political prisoners to be freed.

Sunday's arrests came ahead of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba.

Initially composed of family members of those dissidents detained in 2003, the Ladies in White later also championed wider human rights issues.

In 2005, the group was awarded the Sakharov prize by the European Parliament.

And earlier this year, it received the US government's Human Rights Defender Award for what Washington called their exceptional valour in protecting human rights in the face of government repression.

The Ladies in White have often faced harassment from government supporters.

The authorities say such demonstrations are spontaneous reactions by ordinary Cubans, but the opposition say they are orchestrated by officials.