oscar biscet
Cuban dissident Dr. Oscar Biscet was arrested briefly for his efforts promoting the Emilia Project. He's pictured here Dec. 7, 2002. Reuters

A U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom winner was arrested and held briefly Wednesday by Cuban security agents who threatened him with imprisonment if he continued to push efforts to create a free parliament to replace the National Assembly of People’s Power, the Inspire America Foundation said.

Dr. Oscar Biscet, a political dissident and human rights advocate who was imprisoned in 2002 for crimes against sovereignty and the integrity of the Cuban territory, was arrested outside his Havana home by four police and two state security agents, the Miami Herald reported. He was released several hours later.

“While in custody he was told to give up his work and that he was getting old and that he was being watched and would go to prison if he continued,” said Marcell Felipe, founder of the foundation. Three other dissidents also were detained.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted the arrest proved the failure of U.S. President Barack Obama’s overtures to Cuba.

The dissidents had planned to meet in a Havana park to pass out a newsletter on the Emilia Project, a campaign to gather signatures on a document seeking to establish a new democratic and free parliament and write a new constitution based on principles of freedom and democracy.

Biscet was awarded the Medal of Freedom in absentia in 2007 by then-President George W. Bush but was not able to pick it up until 2011 when he was freed from prison, having served nine years of a 25-year sentence.

In his visit to Washington during the summer, Biscet told the Washington Examiner he was excited about the Emilia Project.

"I have a moral and ethical commitment to return. I can't leave my people enslaved," he said.

Wednesday’s arrests came just hours after Obama delivered his farewell address in Chicago, in part hailing the reopening of relations with Cuba as “a new chapter.”

But Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson testified President-elect Donald Trump plans to re-examine the rapprochement with Cuba, adding he would support a veto of a bill to lift the travel ban to the island. He also said Cuba hasn’t made enough progress on human rights since relations have thawed.