Silenced Voices: Cuba
Human rights groups around the world have welcomed the news that the Cuban government has agreed to release a number of political prisoners. The amnesty includes 22 writers, journalists and librarians arrested and sentenced during the ‘Black Spring’ crackdown in March 2003. A number of them have already been released and have arrived in Madrid, Spain.
However, Human Rights Watch is quick to point out that Raul Castro has incarcerated scores of political prisoners since taking over from his brother Fidel.
These include Albert Santiago du Bouchet, a director and reporter for the independent news agency Habana Press, who was detained on 18 April 2009 while he was visiting relatives in Artemisa, near Havana. A month later, on 12 May, he was sentenced during a summary trial to three years in prison on charges of ‘disrespect for authority’. The circumstances behind his arrest remain unclear but it is widely believed that the real reason for his detention is in reprisal for his writing, which includes reporting on social issues.
Du Bouchet was previously imprisoned in August 2005 on similar ‘disrespect’ charges and had reportedly been threatened with prison on several occasions before his most recent detention.
In a Kafkaesque twist, a provision of the Criminal Code allows individuals to be imprisoned without ever having committed a crime; merely on the allegation that they are ‘dangerous’ and might commit one in the future.
Raymundo Perdigón Brito, founder of the independent news agency Yayabo Press, was arrested on 29 November 2006. After defying a State Security order to cease his journalistic activities, he was accused of being a ‘pre-criminal danger to society’ and on 5 December 2006 was sentenced to 4 years in prison charged with ‘social dangerousness’.
Ramón Velásquez Toranso, a journalist for the independent news agency Libertad, was arrested on 23 January 2007 together with his wife and daughter, both of whom were freed later that day. He received the same charges and was sentenced to 3 years supervised parole before being transferred to a forced-labour camp in Las Tunas province.
Readers may like to send appeals welcoming the amnesty for 52 political prisoners but expressing serious concern that journalists Albert Santiago du Bouchet, Raymundo Perdigón Brito and Ramón Velásquez Toranso remain in prison in Cuba, in violation of their right to freedom of expression, and calling for their release.
General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
(Fax: 00 1 212 779 1697 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org via Cuban Mission to UN)
Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Cuba in your country