“Get on that plane or go to jail,” Cuban Authorities Tell American Lawyer / 14ymedio

Activists Gorki Aguila and Luis Alberto Mariño and American lawyer Kimberley Motley. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 December 2016 – The American lawyer Kimberley Motley, arrested Friday in Havana, returned to the United States after being subjected to three interrogations, the last of which, held at the Havana airport, made her miss her flight.

“Get on that plane tomorrow or go to jail,” Cuban officials told her the night she was interrogated at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood.

Speaking to 14ymedio, the international litigator explained that she knew about the case of Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), and had documented it.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) wanted to denounce El Sexto’s case before the United Nations. Motley offered to travel to the island and discreetly gather information to provide advice on the matter. She met the artist at the Oslo Freedom Forum and considers him a friend.

Once in Cuba, visiting the island for the first time, Motley tried to interview Maldonado in the Combinado del Este prison, but the authorities prevented her from holding the interview.

Nor was she able to obtain new information on El Sexto’s case from the Court.

According to Motley, she was interrogated three times after being arrested by uniformed and plainclothes officers in a sprawling police deployment that included four police cars and about 15 officers. Once she was taken to the station she was interrogated first by a policeman and then by an immigration officer.

The interrogations were in English and Spanish, although she was never provided with a translator.

The questions asked the American lawyer were: “What are you doing in Cuba? Are you an artist? Do you know the artist? And the other artists?” But they never mentioned Danilo Maldonado by name and never told her why she was under arrest.

In a second episode two immigration officers went to her hotel at midnight and threatened to put her in jail if she did not leave Cuba. They told her, “Get on that plane tomorrow or go to jail,” recalls the lawyer. In addition, the questions of the previous interrogation were repeated.

She was also held at the airport, this time by immigration agents who questioned her about why she was there and searched her backpack.

Motley says she did not call a press conference, although she knew that one would be held by the activists who accompanied her to talk with Maldonado’s mother, Maria Victoria Machado.

However, the lawyer did have a meeting scheduled with a national and a foreign journalist to discuss the case.

Although she did not communicate with the US embassy in Havana, the mediation of the diplomatic headquarters was crucial to her release.  According to Javier El-Hage, International Legal Director for the Human Rights Foundation who spoke with 14ymedio, that organization alerted American officials which speeded up the matter.

The lawyer has said she will continue to support El Sexto’s cause because “the arrest of Danilo Maldonado has no legal or moral basis.”