8 January 2015
Cuba: Prisoner releases must lead to new environment for freedoms
The Cuban authorities have released at least eight jailed activists,
with hopes of more to follow.
The release of at least nine jailed opposition activists by the Cuban
authorities since last night is a positive step which should be followed
by a new human rights agenda on the island, Amnesty International said.
Cuban activists have confirmed that five political prisoners were
released on Wednesday evening, and at least four more activists were
released today (8 January). Among the nine men, three were previously
recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.
It is believed this could be the first in a series of releases of more
than 50 prisoners in Cuba as part of a deal announced last month to
“normalize” relations between Cuba and the USA.
“The release of these nine prisoners is clearly an important step
towards righting past injustices in Cuba, and hopefully the first of
many such releases of those jailed for politically motivated offences,”
said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“But we have been receiving incredibly worrying reports about a rise in
harassment and short-term detentions of dissidents throughout 2014 which
has continued in recent weeks. Prisoner releases will be no more than a
smokescreen if they are not accompanied by expanded space for the free
and peaceful expression of all opinions and other freedoms in Cuba.”
According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation, 8,899 short-term detentions were documented throughout
2014, compared with 6,424 in the previous year.
Those released on Wednesday include Bianco Vargas Martín and his brother
Diango Vargas Martín, Enrique Figuerola Miranda, Ernesto Riveri Gascón
and Lázaro Romero Hurtado, all members of the peaceful opposition group
Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU). Today Emilio
Planas Robert, Yohannes Arce Sarmientos, José Manuel Rodríguez Navarro
and Yordenis Mendoza Cobas were released.
Amnesty International previously named the twins Bianco Vargas Martín
and Diango Vargas Martín, and Emilio Planas Robert as prisoners of
conscience and campaigned for their release. Other prisoners of
conscience Iván Fernández Depestre and Alexeis Vargas Martín, Bianco and
Diango’s eldest brother, remain behind bars. Amnesty International
demands their immediate and unconditional release.
The three Vargas Martín brothers were detained in November and December
2012 and were sentenced on public disorder charges to four years
imprisonment for Alexeis and two and a half years the twins. Emilio
Planas Robert was detained in September 2012 and sentenced to three and
a half years for “dangerousness” during a summary trial a month later.
Under the terms of their conditional release, they will still have to
report to the Cuban authorities and cannot leave their provinces.
Amnesty International believes they should never have been detained in
the first place and urge the Cuban authorities to immediately lift these
restrictions to their freedom.
“The good will expressed by the Cuban authorities with this series of
releases must absolutely translate into the implementation of a new
human rights agenda. Respect for freedom of expression, assembly and
association must be the next step if the Cuban authorities want to keep
their credibility in the face of a world which is watching them,” said
Erika Guevara Rosas.
Source: Cuba: Prisoner releases must lead to new environment for
freedoms | Amnesty International –