Cuba gives access to six held Britons

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Britain was tonight promised access to six UK citizens held mysteriously in Cuba for more than two weeks.

Britain was tonight promised access to six UK citizens held mysteriously in Cuba for more than two weeks.

Diplomats in Havanna have been informed they can see them later this evening.

It follows a threat by the Foreign Office to call in Cuba's charge d'affaires in London.

The Foreign Office said it is still unclear why the woman and five men had been detained and that it did not know why the group were in the country.

The British embassy in Havana only had written confirmation of the detentions on 13 October and is pressing for consular access to check on the group's health. It also wants to ensure that human rights are being upheld.

Foreign Office minister Peter Hain said: "It is unacceptable that six British nationals are being held in Cuba without explanation and without access.

"Our charge d'affaires is demanding that we be given immediate access.

"If this is not forthcoming, I shall be calling in the Cuban charge d'affaires tomorrow to demand an explanation.

"Their relatives have a right to know what's happening to them, they themselves have the right to know why they are being held, and the British Government has a right to offer them consular access."

British authorities said they were first notified on October 9 that the five men and a woman - understood to be from the south east - had been detained, but did not get written notification until October 13.

The Foreign Office would not comment on reasons for the Britons' arrest on the communist Caribbean island.

But diplomatic sources suggested the six were working for security firms in Britain.

Solicitor Stephen Jakobi of Fair Trials Abroad said the Cubans might suspect the them of industrial espionage.

He said: "I'm only speculating but I should imagine that's the area. It's obviously not an ordinary criminal matter, judging by the way the Cubans are behaving."

He added: "They must be given prompt consular access. In 16 days you can get anybody to declare they are the Queen of Sheba.

"It's stunningly bad and in breach of that very basic diplomatic treaty, the Vienna Convention.

"There are some big question marks over Cuba. It's a controlled, totalitarian state, one of the last of them.

"This is a mystery and it will probably remain one until the Foreign Office is given access, because all the information at the moment is controlled by the state."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are concerned that we have not had access yet to them.

"We are trying to ensure that their human rights are being looked after. We need information from the Cuban authorities."

Thousands of Britons travel to the holiday island - famed for its cigars, colonial architecture and communist leader Fidel Castro - every year.

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