English PEN welcomes the release of journalists Alejandro González Raga and José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, and of librarian Omar Pernet Hernández, who were freed from imprisonment in Cuba on 16 February 2008.
On Saturday 16 February 2008, the three men were released from prison, taken to Habana, and flown out of Cuba on a Spanish military jet. They were accompanied by their families, and arrived in Madrid the following day.
The exact reasons for their release are as yet unknown. Some press reports imply that it was on health grounds. However, at a press conference held on 19 February in Madrid, the three men stated that they do not know the reason for their release. There is no indication that the announcement on 19 February that Fidel Castro is to retire from office is linked to these releases.
Twenty-one other writers, journalists and librarians remain detained in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. English PEN continues to call for their immediate and unconditional release.
The three men were arrested and sentenced as part of a crackdown on alleged dissidents that begun on 18 March 2003, together with twenty-one other writers, journalists and librarians.
Alejandro González Raga, a freelance journalist, was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and charged under Article 91 of the Penal Code, which deals with acting against ‘the independence of the territorial integrity of the state’. On 15 February 2006, González published an impassioned open letter appealing for international solidarity for political prisoners in Cuba (see http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y06/feb06/16a2.htm ).
Omar Pernet Hernández, a librarian in Villa Clara, and leader of the unofficial Movimiento Nacional por los Derechos Humanos ‘Mario Manuel de la Peña’ (National Movement for Human Rights), was sentenced to 25 years in prison, also under Article 91 of the Penal Code. While in prison, there were concerns for his health, as it was reported that he was suffering from a kidney infection, an inflamed bladder and high blood pressure.
José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, a journalist for the Instituto Cultura y Democracia (Culture and Democracy Institute) & CubaNet, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, under Law 88, which deals with those found guilty of committing ‘acts that, in line with imperialist interests, are aimed at subverting the internal order of the Nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.’ It was reported that he suffered various health problems, diabetes, cirrhosis, hypertension, stomach ulcers, circulation and other ailments that have seriously weakened him. There are accounts that he spent fifteen months in solitary confinement, which had contributed to his poor health.
Please send appeals:
-Welcoming the release of journalists Alejandro González Raga and José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, and librarian Omar Pernet Hernández
-Calling for the government to take steps towards the unconditional release of all other journalists, writers and librarians currently detained in Cuba in violation of their internationally recognised right to freedom of expression.
Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: 53 7 8333085 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs)/
1 2127791697 (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
firstname.lastname@example.org (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/ Your Excellency
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
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
Salutation: Señor Ministro/Dear Minister
Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Cuba in your country:
HE René J. Mujica Cantelar
167 High Holborn
London WC1 6PA
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/cubathreejournalistsreleased/