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Cuba Says Raul Castro Regrets Prisoner Death

Orlando Zapata Tamayo died at a hospital in Havana on February 24.
HAVANA (Reuters) -- Cuban President Raul Castro has expressed regret about the hunger strike death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo and said he was not tortured or executed because neither practice exists in Cuba, according to a state-run website.

Zapata, a 42-year-old plumber imprisoned since 2003 and serving a 36-year sentence, died on February 23 after an 85-day hunger strike in protest at prison conditions.

"Torture does not exist, there was no torture, there was no execution. That happens at the Guantanamo base," Castro was quoted on as saying at an event today in the port of Mariel with visiting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

He referred to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. houses foreign terrorism suspects at a prison camp and has admitted that in the past it used techniques that are widely considered to be torture while interrogating them.

Amnesty International said Zapata's death was a "terrible indictment" of repression in Cuba and the United States called on Cuba to free its political prisoners.