14ymedio, Havana, 27 April 2019 — In recent hours journalist Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces and activist Hugo Damian Prieto were set free. The reporter had been arrested last Monday when he tried to cover the trial of two evangelical pastors while the dissident was sentenced in December of 2018 for the supposed crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness.”
The liberation of Prieto, leader of the Orlando Zapata Civic Action Front (FACOZT), happened this Friday night. The dissident was freed from the prison known as the Toledo II Unit in Valle Grande municipality La Pisa, Havana, where he was transferred after the December trial in which he was sentenced to one year of deprivation of liberty.
“They gave me a letter of freedom that says suspension of security measure,” explained Prieto to this daily. “The two agents from State Security who gave me the document searched me in prison and took me to a house for an interrogation.” The officials threatened the activist with surrounding his house so that he will take no opposing action during the May 1 Workers’ Day.
Prieto complains of the bad conditions in the jail where “there is no transportation for prisoners if they have an emergency, everything is full of bed bugs and poor sanitation,” he says. The dissident spent a good part of his incarceration in a makeshift medical post in the dining room, given the precarious state of his health, especially due to his cardiac problems.
“In the last month they did not give me the medications needed for my heart ailments and previously I had missed some,” he says. In spite of the hard months he endured, Prieto reaffirms his decision to continue his civic activism and his street actions.
For his part, journalist Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, a contributor to CubaNet who was detained at the beginning of the week by agents of the political police in Guantanamo, was set free this Saturday.
Before leaving prison the reporter received a citation to appear next Tuesday in the provincial Military Tribunal where he must be informed about the supposed crimes of “contempt” and “attempt” of which he was accused when he was arrested.
During the almost five days that the arrest of Quinones lasted he did not have access to water for personal hygiene.
The journalist was arrested in the afternoon last Monday at the entrance to the Guantanamo Municipal Tribunal when he tried to cover the trial that took place there against Ramon Rigal and Ayda Exposito, an evangelical couple sentenced to prison for refusing to send their children to school in order to have the opportunity to home-school them.
Before being arrested Quinones Haces managed to make a phone call to his wife, Ana Rosa Castro, from the police patrol car and tell her that he had been beaten, especially in the face, as she was able to prove after she visited him Tuesday at the National Revolutionary Police (PRN) station where he was detained.
According to Castro, Quinones Haces had trouble hearing from his right ear, swelling of his mouth, lacerations to his tongue, a fracture of his right thumb, and extreme difficulty swallowing solid foods,” she detailed in a note to the Pro-Freedom of the Press Association (APLP).
After the detention, several politicians from the United States such as Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio and Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Kimberly Breier, demanded that the Cuban government immediately release Quinones.
The Inter-American Press Association (SIP), during its most recent meeting in Cartagena de Indias, presented a report in which it complained that freedom of expression and of the independent press are becoming “criminal behavior” according to the Cuban constitution. The SIP adds that Article 149 of the Penal Code maintains the crime of “usurpation of legal capacity” [i.e. practicing a profession without a license] which is used to punish independent journalists.
Translated by Mary Lou Keel.
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