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13 Cuban dissidents extracted from Havana Church

The 13 Cuban government opponents who had been holed up inside a Havana church to demand political reforms were removed by authorities late Thursday, Catholic church officials confirmed Friday.

The group had occupied the Minor Basilica of the Church of Our Lady of Charity in downtown Havana since Tuesday.

The operation to end the occupation was specifically requested by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, according to a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Havana, Orlando Marquez.

The statement released shortly after the dissidents were extracted from the church said the 13 repeatedly refused to evacuate despite "unilateral" requests from church officials and others.

"For this reason” the Cardinal asked government authorities to “invite” the occupants to leave the church, the statement said. The church statement said the Cardinal was assured the dissidents would be safe once outside the church.

The group was demanding the release of political prisoners, internet access, free speech and discussion of a roadmap for building the rule of law in Cuba.

The statement said that the eviction took place at 9 p.m. Thursday and lasted 10 minutes.

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