Cuba: Oscar Sánchez Madan sentenced to four years; fourth Cuban journalist to be jailed as ‘pre-criminal danger to society’ in the last six months

English PEN is gravely concerned by the four-year prison sentence handed to Oscar Sánchez Madan following a secret trial on 13 April 2007. He is the fourth journalist to be imprisoned as a ‘pre-criminal danger to society’ since November 2006. English PEN is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Sánchez and the 31 other journalists and writers currently in prison in Cuba.
 
On 13 April 2007, Oscar Sánchez Madan (44), a Matanzas correspondent for the Miami-based Cubanet website, was arrested, summarily tried and sentenced to four years in prison as a ‘pre-criminal social danger’. According to PEN sources, Sánchez did not have a defence lawyer and family members were not allowed to attend the trial.
 
Sánchez was arrested by members of the State Security (the political police) at his home in Unión de Reyes, a small town in Matanzas province, 100km east of Havana, on the morning of 13 April. He was secretly tried the same day on charges of ‘social dangerousness’ under Article 72 of the Cuban Penal Code at the Unión de Reyes municipal court.
 
According to Article 72, ‘any person shall be deemed dangerous if he or she has shown proclivity to commit crimes demonstrated by conduct that is in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality.’ This provision effectively allows the Cuban authorities to imprison individuals pre-emptively, on the basis of the danger they supposedly pose rather than because of anything they have actually done. The four-year sentence imposed on Sánchez is the maximum penalty for this offence.
 
Following the trial, Sánchez was immediately taken to Combinado del Sur, a maximum security prison outside Matanzas. It is understood that he was able to call his family after the trial. Sanchez’ arrest was apparently not reported until 17 April (by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a Havana-based group that is illegal but tolerated by the government).
 
Sánchez had covered a local corruption scandal and social problems in Matanzas in March 2007. According to PEN sources, he had been previously detained in September 2006 and March 2007 and repeatedly warned by local authorities to stop working as a journalist, .

 

Sánchez’ imprisonment would appear to be part of an alarming trend of labelling journalists ‘pre-criminal social dangers’ in order to criminalise their work and put them behind bars. Over the last six months, at least three other journalists have been imprisoned on the same charges in Cuba. These include: Ramón Velázquez Toranso of the Libertad news agency (sentenced to three years, 23 January 2007); Raymundo Perdigón Brito of the Yayabo news agency (four years, 5 December 2006); and Guillermo Espinosa Rodríguez of the Libre Oriental news agency (two years’ house arrest, 6 November 2006). Librarian Jose Antonio Mola Porro of the Pedro Luis Boitel Independent Library was also sentenced to two years in prison on ‘pre-criminal social dangerousness’ charges in May 2005.
 
According to International PEN, there are currently 32 journalists, writers and librarians in prison in Cuba, 24 of whom were jailed in a crackdown in March 2003.
 
Please send appeals calling for:

• All charges against Oscar Sánchez Madan to be dropped and his immediate and unconditional release;
• The immediate and unconditional release of the 31 other journalists, writers and librarians currently in prison in Cuba;
• Respect for press freedom, including the repeal of Article 72 of the Criminal Code, which is increasingly being used to be used to criminalise and imprison journalists.

 

Addresses:
 
Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente interino
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: 53 7 8333085 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs)/
1 2127791697 (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: f_castro@cuba.gov.cu
cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency
 
Attorney-General
Dr Juan Escalona Reguera
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
San Rafael 3
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: 53 7 669 485 / 53 7 333 164
Salutation: Señor Fiscal General/Dear Attorney General
 
Interior Secretary
General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
Ministerio del Interior
Plaza de la Revolución
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: 53 7 8301 566
Salutation: Señor Ministro/Dear Minister

 

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Sr Felipe Pérez Roque
Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Calzada No. 360, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
Fax: 53 7 8333 085
E-mail: cubaminrex@minrex.gov.cu
Salutation: Señor Ministro/Dear Minister
 
It may be more effective to send appeals to diplomatic representatives of Cuba in London:

 

His Excellency René J. Mujica Cantelar
Embassy of the Republic of Cuba
167 High Holborn
London WC1 6PA
Fax: 020 7836 2602

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/cubaoscarsnchezmadansentencedtofouryearsfourthcubanjournalisttobejailedaspre-criminaldangertosocietyinthelastsixmonths/

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