Friday, March 18, 2011

CUBA: Last of the ‘Black Spring’ writers released

18 March 2011

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is delighted to report the release from prison of independent journalist Pedro Argüelles Morán on 4 March 2011. Argüelles, who has been allowed to stay in Cuba under a special parole programme, is the last of the many writers arrested in March 2003 government crackdown on dissidents to be freed, two weeks before the eighth anniversary of the ‘Black Spring'. However, journalist Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, detained in 2009, remains in prison. The WiPC calls for Du Bouchet's immediate and unconditional release, and for the release of the ‘Black Spring' writers to be made unconditional.

Pedro Argüelles Morán, former director of the Cooperative of Independent Avileña Journalists (Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes, CAPI), based in Ciego de Ávila, was released on 4 March 2011 and returned to his family home in central Cuba. He had served almost eight years of a 20-year sentence.

Argüelles, 63, is the last to be freed of the 35 writers and independent journalists and librarians who were arrested as part of a crackdown on alleged dissidents that began on 18 March 2003 and in which 75 people in total were detained and tried. All were sentenced during one-day trials held on 3/4 April 2003 under laws governing the protection of the Cuban state.

Argüelles has been allowed to remain in Cuba under a special parole programme, like journalists Iván Hernández Carrillo and Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez, who were released on 19 and 12 February 2011 respectively. The 18 writers and independent journalists and librarians freed between July and September 2010 under a deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish foreign ministry were all forced to accept exile in Spain (three have reportedly since relocated, two to the USA and one to Chile).

Local human rights activists have expressed concern that the special parole programme under which Argüelles, Hernández and Maseda have been freed will be used as a way to maintain control over political prisoners after their release. None of the freed ‘Black Spring' writers have had their prison sentences lifted.

One more independent journalist remains in prison. Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, director and reporter for the Havana-based independent news agency Habana Press was imprisoned in April 2009 after being given a three-year prison sentence for "disrespect for authority".

Pedro Argüelles Morán is an Honorary Member of English PEN.

Please note that the independent librarian Blas Giraldo Reyes Rodríguez (20 de Mayo Library) was reportedly released and exiled to Spain in July 2010.

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