Cuban President Fidel Castro normally can't stand being ignored. But he has chosen a moment when the world is looking the other way to carry out a startling roundup of dissidents opposed to his 44-year-long communist rule. Since March 18, the day before war broke out in Iraq, 78 dissidents and independent journalists have been jailed, accused of treason for allegedly being financed by the U.S. The evidence? Some of them recently met with American diplomatic officials who are permitted to work in Havana. But a prominent dissident who has not been arrested is physicist Oswaldo Paya, 51, head of the Varela Project, which is calling for a constitutional referendum on free speech and elections. Castro's ire at the growing popularity of Paya seems a key impetus for the dragnet, since most of those arrested are Varela activists. But Castro has apparently decided that arresting Paya, who last year won the European Union's Sakharov Award for human rights, would attract the kind of attention Castro doesn't want. Paya told TIME last week he fears he could still be imprisoned: "I'm waiting for the knock on the door any moment now."