14ymedio, Havana, August 27, 2019 — The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International has declared five currently detained Cuban activists to be prisoners of conscience. This world famous organization denounced the dissidents’ imprisonment for crimes that are not internationally recognized and which have been used for decades to silence voices critical of the Cuban regime.
Josiel Pilot Guide, Silverio Portal Contreras, Mitzael Díaz Paseiro, Eliecer Bandera Barrera and Edilberto Ronal Arzuaga Alcalá are the five dissidents included on the list of prisoners of conscience who are now serving sentences in Cuban jails. Amnesty states that, although Cuba’s leadership has changed, “the practice of illegally restricting freedom of expression and association continues.”
The organization urges the Cuban Government to “immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience imprisoned exclusively for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and to repeal their sentences.”
Amnesty also calls upon Cuba to ensure that prisoners of conscience are protected from torture and mistreatment, that they are guaranteed legal defense by an attorney of their choosing and are allowed family visits in accordance with the United Nations’ Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Inmates.
Amnesty International calls on Cuba to respect the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and repeal any legislation that limits those rights.
The Patriotic Union of Cuba called the announcement “great news” and “a blow to the dissuasive strategies of the Castro dictatorship.”
In a commentary on its Facebook page, the organization expressed its support for Cuban Prisoners Defender, the NGO which, Amnesty states, “continues to lead the way in confirming and exposing political imprisonment internationally.”
For her part, Berta Soler, leader of the human rights group Ladies in White, criticized Amnesty International for having forgotten the four imprisoned members of her organization.
In its communiqué Amnesty stated that Josiel Guía Piloto is serving a five year-sentence for “public disorder” and “contempt.” The activist, whos is president of the Republican Party of Cuba, was detained after having criticized former President Fidel Castro on 1 December 2016. His mother has alleged she he suffered mistreatment while in prison. The communiqué states, “On 11 June 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary measures to respect and protect his rights to health, life and physical integrity.
Below are the five Cuban prisoners of conscience, according to AI
Josiel Pilot Guide is president of Cuba’s Republican Party and is serving a five-year prison term for “public disorder” and “contempt.” Josiel was arrested after criticizing former President Fidel Castro on December 1, 2016. According to his mother, who was also active against the Cuban government, officials beat him in jail and injured his left lung. On June 11, 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued precautionary measures to respect and protect his rights to health, life, and physical integrity.
Silverio Portal Contreras, a former activist with the Ladies in White, is serving a four-year sentence for the same crimes as Guía Piloto. He was arrested on the June 20, 2016 in Old Havana after shouting “Down with Fidel Castro, down with Raúl…” The prosecution stated that the behavior of the accused was particularly offensive because it took place in a tourist area.
Mitzael Díaz Paseiro, a member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front, is serving four years in prison for “dangerousness,” a legal term that the government frequently uses to imprison opponents for not having a job. Ironically, it is the state that repeatedly denies jobs to people whom it sees as opponents or who openly question its authority.
“Diaz Paseiro is a political activist who was campaigning against the government’s position in the constitutional reform process. According to his wife, prior to his imprisonment the police had detained him multiple times for his activism,” states Amnesty. Mitzael’s wife says her husband has been beaten while in prison.
Eliecer Bandera Barrera, an activist with the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) is serving a prison sentence for “dangerousness,” which runs until 2021. “Eliecer was arrested in September 2016 after having filmed videos for UNPACU about the conditions of workers interned in camps,” states Amnesty. In addition to his four-year sentence, ten additional months were added for escaping a work camp to call a sick family member.
Edilberto Ronal Arzuaga Alcalá, also a member of UNPACU, was jailed for not paying a fine. According to Amnesty,”Edilberto has been imprisoned since December 2018, reportedly for not paying fines related to his alleged distribution of political posters. Edilberto was most recently involved in the ’Cuba Decides’ Campaign and campaigned against the government’s position in the recent constitutional reform process.”
On April 22, 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued precautionary measures, calling upon Cuban authorities to respect and protect Edilberto’s rights to life, health and physical safety.
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