Cuban Prisoners Defenders IDs 127 Political Prisoners on the Island

Daniel Llortente, “The Man With the Flag,” was pressured to leave Cuba under threat of arrest. (courtesy)

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14ymedio, Havana, 6 August 2019 — One of the most controversial and anticipated figures on repression in Cuba has been updated by Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD). The independent organization states that on the Island there are 127 political prisoners and demands that foreign diplomats to call for their release.

In a report published on August 1, CPD breaks down the number into three groups and reports that in Cuban prisons there are 73 convicts of conscience “with accusations that are totally complete and proven false and fabricated, or of a non-criminal nature and absolutely [crimes] of thought.”

During the month of July, Reinaldo Rodríguez Hernández of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Action Front joined the list, “sentenced to one year in prison for a false crime of ’resistance’, while Humberto Rico Quiala was pardoned, as he was on the point of being considered a prisoner of conscience. Activist Yasser Rivero Boni was also released after spending five months in prison for the crime of contempt.

The CPD notes “that the achievements of freedom for such cases are not attributable to changes in the regime,” but rather to the regime’s interest in avoiding international condemnation. “It is necessary, we remind the diplomatic corps, to be braver and less opportunistic, if we really want to achieve effective changes in this regime that has been deceiving the entire world for 60 years,” they ask in the report.

In the second group, Cuban Prisoners Defenders classifies 24 prisoners as “convicted of conscience” because “they suffer forced labor at home, measures to limit freedom or probation under threats, which the regime also usually revokes and returns them to prison if the activist does not cease his pro-democracy activity.”

In that list is the revocation of parole and deprivation of liberty of Misael Espinosa Puebla who, “in spite of complying with the requirement that he periodically appear before the authorities during his sentence of home confinement, he continued with his firm position against the regime, and has been returned to prison in June.”

According to the report, these prisoners are forced into work unrelated to their “professional qualifications and that does not even allow for a minimum of sustenance,” which demonstrates humiliation as a method of psychological torture in those convicted of [crimes of] conscience to avoid their pro-democratic recidivism.”

Prisoners Defenders has also analyzed the duration of the sentences, whose average is in the 3 years and 8 months, two months longer than the previous year.

The other group that makes up the list includes 30 political prisoners, including Elías Pérez Bocourt, who was released last month after serving a sentence of 27 years and 192 days convicted for the crimes of “accomplice of murder and piracy,” in the case of the  of Taará Nautical Club, where four police officers died.

Particularly serious is the situation of the 10,000 people who are in prison, according to the CPD’s count, for crimes of conscience classified in the Criminal Code as “pre-criminal.” The figure, the organization indicates, has been provided by a senior government official with whom they maintain contact, “an important regime leader, reformer and contrary to the state of current uncontrolled repression.” In Havana 1,800 people are imprisoned as “pre-criminals.”

These types of sentences have been denounced on multiple occasions by organizations such as Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which warn against a law that punishes citizens with penalties of one to four years in prison for an alleged crime that they have not yet committed. To this is added the strategy, widely used in recent years, to forbid activists and journalists from traveling outside Cuba by telling them that they are “regulated.” The organization Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) also warns that, lately, another control mechanism is being used consisting of offering dissidents the opportunity to “voluntarily” leave the country as an alternative to their expulsion.

Prisoners Defenders has also analyzed the duration of the sentences, whose average is 3 years and 8 months, two months longer than the previous year.

If the case of prisoners from whom a common crime overlapped with a crime of conscience is added, the figure skyrockets, the most common penalty being life imprisonment.

In more than 73% of convictions for political reasons an aggravating crime has been added, a common practice so that these inmates cannot be considered exclusively “prisoners of conscience” and therefore the organization recommends that any protest or act of opposition be peaceful, thus avoiding the possibility of receiving more than 20 years. Prisoners Defenders says it is continuing to get human rights organizations to consider these as cases of conscience.

Unpacu, with 49 activists of conscience convicted or charge, accounts 51% of the inmates tallied by the organization.

Cuban Prisoners Defenders, linked to Unpacu, is a group engaged in analysis, study and action, and collaborated with groups of Island activists and relatives of political prisoners to collect data.


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