World briefs 04/11/03

Cuba sentences last of dissidents in crackdown

HAVANA -- Cuba on Wednesday sentenced the last of 75 dissidents convicted after one-day trials of collaborating with U.S. diplomats to undermine the communist government.

Governments and human rights groups around the world have condemned the speedy crackdown, which began with a massive roundup of opponents on March 18. The subsequent trials resulted in sentences ranging from 6 to 28 years.

The United States has denied the government allegations, calling the moves "symptomatic of the dictatorship of the Cuban regime."

"There has never been anything similar to this in the history of Cuba," said Elizardo Sanchez, whose Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation has monitored the arrests and trials.

"This is not the end of the peaceful opposition," said pro-democracy activist Oswaldo Paya, who escaped the crackdown.

Israelis kill top Islamic militant in Gaza City

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a car in Gaza City on Thursday, killing a senior commander of a violent Islamic group, the second such air strike this week in the region.

The European Union expressed concern and called on Israel to show restraint

"In such a critical moment for the region and shortly after the recent appointment of a Palestinian prime minister, we consider that extra-judicial executions, which also caused severe casualties among innocent civilians, are rather unwise and counterproductive," said the announcement from the EU presidency, which is held by Greece.

A U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan is expected to be presented after the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Cabinet are sworn in, probably within weeks. The plan calls for creation of a provisional Palestinian state.

-- From wire reports