Thursday, February 24, 2011

CUBA: Second writer released and allowed to stay in Cuba; three still in jail

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International welcomes the release of the independent journalist and librarian Iván Hernández Carrillo on 19 February 2011, after almost eight years in prison. Hernández, like Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez who was freed on 12 February, has been allowed to remain in Cuba under a special parole programme; the 18 writers freed last year were all exiled to Spain as a precondition of their release. The WiPC calls on the Cuban government to make Hernández' and the other writers' release unconditional and to free the remaining three journalists and librarians in jail immediately and unconditionally.

CUBA - Iván Hernández Carrillo (CPJ)Iván Hernández Carrillo, journalist (Patria or Fatherland independent news agency) and independent librarian (Juan Gualberto Gómez Library), was released on 19 February 2011 and allowed to return to his home in western Matanzas province.

Hernández, 39, is the 20th of the writers, independent journalists and librarians jailed during a March 2003 government crackdown on dissidents to be freed under a deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish foreign ministry in July 2010. However he is only the second to be allowed to remain in Cuba under a special parole programme, the first being Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez, who was freed on 12 February. The 18 writers and independent journalists and librarians released between July and September 2010 were all forced to accept exile in Spain (three have reportedly since relocated, two to the USA and one to Chile).

Following his release, Hernández said in an interview with Agence France-Presse: "I am free. I will keep writing, as I did from prison and as I will now from the street. I will write of the events that affect ordinary Cubans."

However, local human rights activists have expressed concern that the special parole programme under which Hernández and Maseda have been freed will be used as a way to maintain control over political prisoners after their release. Moreover, none of the 20 freed writers' prison sentences - in Hernández' case, 25 years in total with 17 remaining - has been lifted.

With Hernández' release, there are now a total of three independent journalists and librarians still in prison in Cuba. Pedro Argüelles Morán (Cooperative of Independent Avileña Journalists) and Blas Giraldo Reyes Rodríguez (20 de Mayo Library), both jailed since March 2003, have reportedly not yet been released because, like Maseda and Carrillo, they have refused to leave the country. Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández (Habana Press) was imprisoned in April 2009.

Hernández is an Honorary Member of Catalán and Scottish PEN Centres.

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