Cuba: Sixth anniversary of the ‘Black Spring’ crackdown

Today (18 March) marks the sixth anniversary of Cuba’s ‘Black Spring’, the crackdown in which approximately 90 critics of Castro’s regime were arrested as ‘agents of the American enemy’. One-day hearings were held behind closed doors, with the accused denied time to put together cogent defences. They received prison sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years.

Of those arrested, 35 were writers, journalists and librarians. External observers believed that their convictions amounted to a concerted attempt to suppress Cuba’s independent media, which was flourishing at the time. The crackdown prompted many other Cuban journalists to give up their professions or opt for exile.

Some of these prisoners have been conditionally released, on humanitarian grounds, since April 2004. Immediately before Fidel Castro’s resignation in 2008, three were freed and allowed to leave for Spain, for reasons which still remain unclear. We at PEN have also been encouraged by recent improvements to the conditions of certain prisoners, including their being transferred to prison facilities nearer to their family homes.

Nevertheless, twenty-two of our fellow writers, journalists and librarians continue to languish in prisons across Cuba, in violation of their right to freedom of expression. Many of these prisoners are held hundreds of kilometres from their family homes, whilst the majority of them suffer from health conditions caused or exacerbated by the prison conditions to which they are subject.

Seven journalists whose situations continue to be of particular concern to English PEN are our Honorary Members Normando Hernández González, Adolfo Fernández Saínz, Julio César Gálvez Rodriguez, Fabio Prieto Llorente, Pedro Argüelles Morán, Léster Luis González Pentón and José Luis García Paneque. All seven of these men suffer from considerable health problems, including serious respiratory, gastrointestinal, kidney and prostate problems, as well as cataracts, arthritis and high blood pressure.

We strongly feel that the only humane and just solution in these cases, and for all those unlawfully arrested in March 2003, is to release them unconditionally.

As part of our 2009 Cuba Campaign, we are therefore asking members to write letters to the Cuban authorities calling for the unconditional release of these twenty-two writers, librarians and journalists.

For more information on the cases, please click here

To read former Black Spring prisoner Oscar Espinosa Chepe’s report on the anniversary, please click here.

Please send appeals:

– Expressing serious concern about the continued detention of the twenty-two writers, librarians and journalists six years after the ‘Black Spring’ crackdown;
– Expressing alarm at the reports of their deteriorating health, and calling for them to granted the necessary medical attention and treatment;
– Requesting that they are granted increased access to their families, and are transferred to prison facilities closer to their family homes where applicable;
– Demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Cuba in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Appeals to:

Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
La Habana, Cuba

Dr. Juan Escalona Reguera
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
San Rafael 3
La Habana, Cuba

General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
Ministerio del Interior
Plaza de la Revolución
La Habana, Cuba

Sr Bruno Rodriguez
Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Calzada No. 360
La Habana, Cuba

Please also send copies of your appeal letters via the Cuban Embassy in London:

HE René J. Mujica Cantelar
167 High Holborn

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