Profession: poet, director of CubaPress, co-founder of Manuel Márquez Sterling Journalists Society, and librarian
Details of arrest: Raúl Rivero Castañeda was arrested on 20 March 2003, as part of a crackdown on alleged dissidents that began on 18 March 2003 and in which around 80 people were detained. Rivero had signed, with other intellectuals, an open letter to the Cuban government calling for more openness and freedom in Cuba. For this and other alleged crimes he was charged with “acting against Cuban independence and attempting to divide Cuban territorial unity”, as well as with writing “against the government”, organising “subversive meetings” at his home, and collaborating with US diplomat James Cason.
Details of trial: He was one of 34 journalists, writers and librarians sentenced during the one-day trials held on 3/4 April 2003 under laws governing the protection of the Cuban state. The one-day court hearings were held behind closed doors and it is reported that there was insufficient time for the accused to put together a cogent defence.
Sentence: 20 years
Prison conditions: It was reported on 22 May 2003 that Rivero was being held in darkness in a cell measuring three square metres. On 26 August 2004 Rivero told his wife that the prison authorities’ attitude to him had hardened considerably in the last two months. After a heated row with his prison guard, Rivero’s forthcoming conjugal visit on 11 September was cancelled as a reprisal.
Awards: PEN USA West Freedom to Write Award 2003; 2004 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
Honorary member: Finnish, Canadian, American, USA PEN and English PEN
Released: 30 November 2004
Exiled: Raúl Rivero Castañeda went into exile in Spain with his family on 1 April 2005.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/honorarymembers/cuba/raulrivero/