The Roman Catholic Church denounced acts of abuse by pro-government crowds against a prominent Cuban opposition group, adding Monday that the government of President Raul Castro has assured it that officials were not behind the violence.

The statement by Orlando Marquez, a spokesman for the Havana archdiocese, follows complaints by the Ladies in White opposition group that members have suffered harassment and rough treatment in recent weeks, including detentions during a protest in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

“Violence of any type against defenseless people has no justification,” Marquez wrote in a statement sent to foreign journalists. “The Cuban government … has communicated to the Church that no order to assault these people came from any national decision center.”

Cuban officials insist that the counter-protests at the Ladies’ marches are spontaneous, though state security officials are normally present.

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