Friday, August 18, 2006

Repression of Cuban Journalists - II


Via Reporters Without Borders, an excerpt from the case of one of the 25 Cuban journalists currently serving long terms of imprisonment in Cuban jails:

Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona


Arrested on 18 March 2003 at his home in Pinar del Rio.

Sentenced on 30 March to 26 years in prison (one of the heaviest sentences imposed on the independent journalists) by the Pinar del Rio provincial people’s court. The prosecution asked for life imprisonment. Aged 51.

Arrest and trial

The verdict was announced at the end of a single hearing that lasted 12 hours (for four defendants). The court appointed a defence lawyer because Arroyo refused to choose one, saying the outcome of the trial had been decided in advance. He was accused of "undermining national independence and territorial integrity" and the judge called him a "traitor to Cuba" and "lackey of the US government."

When the verdict was announced, he consoled his mother, Martha Carmona, and wife, Elsa González Padrón, who were present. "Don’t be upset, I’m not going to die in jail," he said.

He was sent to prison in Guantanamo, 1,100 km from where he lived.

Police searched his home and seized a computer, fax, camera and cash and used his Transcard credit card to draw out $100 he had in his account. A TV set and furniture were sequestered in the house.

- Arroyo has belonged to the UPECI (Independent Cuban Journalists and Writers Union) agency since 1996 and contributed to the website CubaNet and Radio Marti.

- He has been in prison twice before.
The first time was in 1996 for publishing an unauthorised article called "El Tabaco," criticising tobacco growing methods in Pinar del Rio, where the famous Havana cigars are produced.

He was jailed again on 14 February 2000 and sentenced this time to six months in prison for "possessing public property," an offence that had been dropped in practice since the dollarisation of the economy. He had bought toys in hard-currency shops in Pinar del Rio that he was going to hand out to poor children in the city as part of the "Three Kings of the Millennium" project funded by the diaspora to revive the traditional Catholic Three Kings Day festival in Cuba. The toys were confiscated and have not been returned.

- He also ran one of the biggest independent libraries in Cuba (part of the Varela Project network), containing about 5,000 books.

In prison

On 14 April, Cubanet printed an open letter from him to foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque describing as a "badly-concocted joke" the minister’s 24 March remarks to the foreign media that prisoners were being treated well and without being humiliated." The journalist noted that the 75 dissidents arrested in 2003 had been imprisoned very far from their home towns. He accused the authorities of keeping them shut up for months in windowless cells, with no right to use the telephone, with bad food and with little medical care that was also used as a means of pressure.

A cubanet.org article on 10 June reported that the health of Cubanet journalist Víctor Rolando Arroyo was very worrying. He has high blood pressure, headaches and diarrhea and has lost between 15 and 20 kg since he was imprisoned. Nonetheless, he was moved to a punishment cell for protesting against the way a fellow inmate was treated. Although the 21-day punishment period established in the regulations has elapsed, he is still in solitary confinement. Most of the letters sent by his wife Elsa González Padrón have not been delivered.

Cubanet.org reported on 16 July that Victor Rolando Arroyo was not receiving the necessary treatment for the high blood pressure and infection he is suffering from. He has also been banned from leaving his cell.
Read it all.
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