RAN 23/09: CUBA UPDATE

April 8, 2011

RAN 23/09

CUBA: Last journalist released

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is delighted to report that the last remaining Cuban journalist in prison, Habana Press director Alberto Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, has now been released. Du Bouchet, who had served almost two years of a three-year sentence, arrived in Spain today along with 36 other dissidents after agreeing to go into exile in exchange for their release. The journalist was convicted for “disrespect for authority” on 12 May 2009 following a summary trial where he was reportedly denied access to a lawyer. Read more.

Du Bouchet joins 18 other writers and independent journalists and librarians freed and forced into exile between July and September 2010 under a deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish foreign ministry. Three others released in February and March 2011 were allowed to remain in Cuba under a special parole program. The 21 were among 35 writers and independent journalists and librarians who were arrested as part of a crackdown on alleged dissidents that began on 18 March 2003 and in which 75 people in total were detained and tried. All were sentenced during one-day trials held on 3/4 April 2003 under laws governing the protection of the Cuban state.

The WiPC is relieved that after so many years Cuba’s jails are finally free of writers, journalists and librarians convicted for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. However, arrests and harassment of journalists and dissidents persist, and it is clear that much remains to be done before Cubans can fully enjoy the right to freedom of expression, which the government endorsed when it signed the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in February 2008.

No further action is required. Many thanks to all who have sent appeals on behalf of the formerly imprisoned Cuban writers and journalists.