The dissident Ladies in White group denounced repressive action by the Cuban government to keep its members from taking part in activities to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, patroness of prisoners.

"The purpose of the repression is to keep us from taking part in the four days of activities honoring former political prisoners" that began Friday with a Mass in remembrance of deceased Cuban dissidents like Laura Pollan, Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero," Ladies in White spokeswoman Berta Soler said.

More than 40 Ladies in White from different provinces, according to the dissident, were stopped from traveling to Havana and were sent back home.

"We don't know where some of them are," Soler said Sunday.

The homes of some 12 members who live in Havana "were under siege by state security forces, and when they came outside they were arrested, while others were detained (Sunday) before reaching Santa Rita Church, she added.

The street where the group has its headquarters --at the home of its late leader Laura Pollan in the Centro Habana neighborhood-- is blocked to traffic and police are allowing no pedestrians to enter unless they live in that avenue, Soler said.

Soler made her statement upon leaving Mass in the Havana parish of Santa Rita, where the group goes every Sunday after making a peaceful march on behalf of human rights and freedom for political prisoners.

Some 30 women attended the religious service on Sunday and then marched down Fifth Avenue in the Cuban capital.

The Ladies in White movement was founded to demand the release of opposition members of the so-called "Group of 75," who were sentenced to prison for up to 28 years during the government crackdown known as the "Black Spring" of 2003, accused of conspiring with the United States.

The last 52 dissidents of that group of prisoners were freed between mid-2010 and early 2011 following a negotiation of the island's government with the Catholic Church.

The Cuban government considers members of the internal dissidence to be "counterrevolutionaries" and "mercenaries" doing the bidding of the United States.

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