Cuban government opponent Guillermo Fariñas was detained in the central city of Santa Clara while trying to visit a hunger-striking dissident at a hospital, his family and pro-democracy activists said.

"Guillermo went to pay a visit to Alcides (Rivera) at the hospital and they don't want anyone there. The (hospital guards) didn't let him in. They immobilized him, beat him and called the police, who took him to a (police unit)," Fariñas' mother, Alicia Hernandez, told Efe Tuesday.

She said she learned of her son's arrest thanks to an "eyewitness."

Another 18 dissidents who went to the Arnaldo Milian Castro Provincial Hospital Monday to check on Rivera's health were not allowed inside the facility and were detained, although apparently some were released Tuesday, Hernandez said.

Rivera went on hunger strike on Sept. 28 to demand an end to government repression of dissent, activist Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said.

Fariñas was detained at approximately 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, Sanchez said, adding that he believes it will be a typical short-lived stay in police lockup of a few hours.

Winner of the European Parliament's 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Fariñas has been detained briefly on numerous occasions this year, most recently in mid-September amid a wave of arrests of dissidents in his home city of Santa Clara and other towns of central Cuba.

The psychologist and independent journalist has staged two dozen hunger strikes since the 1990s to call for a free press, access to the Internet and the release of imprisoned dissidents, among other demands.

Last year, he went on a four-and-a-half-month fast to demand the release of political prisoners following the death of Orlando Zapata, who passed away on Feb. 23, 2010, after a lengthy hunger strike behind bars to force the Cuban government to acknowledge his designation by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.

The international outcry over Zapata's death prompted the Cuban government to launch a Spanish-backed dialogue last year with the Cuban Catholic hierarchy that led to the release of more than 100 political prisoners, including dozens of dissidents jailed in March 2003 amid the harshest crackdown in decades.

Fariñas, who received food and medication intravenously during the protest, ended the fast after the announcement of the prisoner releases.

He also staged a brief hunger strike earlier this year to demand justice in the case of fellow dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto, who government opponents say died after being beaten by police officers.

The government and the dead man's family say no such aggression occurred.