Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cuba frees 17th journalist jailed in Black Spring

Cuba frees 17th journalist jailed in Black Spring
New York, October 12, 2010

Cuban journalist Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, left, was freed from prison on
Friday and exiled to Spain as part of a July agreement between the
Havana government and the Catholic Church. Seventeen journalists jailed
in the 2003 Black Spring crackdown have now been freed and exiled as
part of the agreement. "I feel as if I was born again, trying to get
used to cell phones, personal computers and emails, all things that were
barely known in Cuba before I was jailed," Fuentes told CPJ in a
telephone interview.

Fuentes said that he never wanted to leave Cuba, but seven years of
incarceration made it too hard to stay. "It was a difficult decision,
but even more difficult was to turn down the offer and remain in jail,"
he explained.

Fuentes, a freelance reporter originally based in the city of Artemisa,
began serving a 26-year prison term in March 2003. He arrived in Madrid
shortly after noon on Friday, accompanied by ten members of his family.

In July, the Catholic Church brokered an agreement with Cuban
authorities to release 52 political prisoners who were arrested seven
years ago, during a massive government crackdown on political dissent
and independent journalism. Spanish government officials also
participated in the talks.

All 17 of the reporters released so far have been immediately flown to
Spain. (One has since relocated to Chile.)

Three journalists arrested in the 2003 crackdown remain in jail, along
with another journalist imprisoned at a later time, CPJ research shows.
The first three--including CPJ awardee Héctor Maseda--have already
expressed their desire to stay in Cuba upon release, the reporters'
families told CPJ.

A story published in September by the Madrid-based daily El País quoted
Spanish officials as saying that imprisoned reporters who want to stay
in Cuba upon release will be freed through a parole program. The Cuban
government has not confirmed the existence of such a program.

Below is a capsule report on Fuentes' case from CPJ's annual census of
jailed journalists, conducted in December 2009.

Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, freelance
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Fuentes, an economist by training, began working for the Cuban
independent press in 1991. On March 19, 2003, he was arrested after a
raid on his home in the city of Artemisa. The next month, the freelance
reporter was convicted of violating Article 91 of the Cuban penal code,
which imposes harsh penalties for acting against "the independence or
the territorial integrity of the state." A judge in western Havana
province handed him a 26-year prison sentence.

The 60-year-old journalist was being held at the maximum-security
Guanajay Prison, his wife, Loyda Valdés González, told CPJ. Valdés
González, who is allowed to visit her husband only once every 45 days,
said conditions at Guanajay were better than those at other prisons
where he had been held. Due to his severe back problems, the reporter
did not share a cell with other prisoners. Valdés González said her
husband suffered from chronic gastritis that caused him to lose
significant amounts of weight.

Valdés González told CPJ that in December 2007, her husband presented an
appeal to Cuba's Supreme Tribunal Court. Because Cuban authorities
denied Fuentes access to a lawyer, he did so without benefit of counsel.
After two years, the court had still not responded to him, Valdés
González told CPJ.

No comments:

Post a Comment