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Cuba - Dissident blogger completes year in detention

Source: Reporters Without Borders - Fri, 28 Feb 2014 05:09 GMT
Author: Reporters Without Borders
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Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of Angel Santiesteban-Prats, a writer who completes a year in detention today and who began a blog in 2008 called Los hijos que nadie quiso that was openly critical of the government.

Santiesteban-Prats was arrested on 28 February 2013 to begin serving the five-year jail sentence on trumped-up charges of "home violation" and "injuries" that he received at the end of a hasty and arbitrary trial on 8 December 2012. No hard evidence was produced in support of the charges.

After his first six weeks in detention, he was transferred on 9 April 2013 to a prison in the Havana suburb of San Miguel del Padrón where he was repeatedly subjected to acts of mistreatment and torture.

Reporters Without Borders learned on 18 February that the National Association of Law Offices (ONBC) has suspended his lawyer, Amelia Rodríguez Cala, for six months, considerably hampering her efforts to obtain his release.

Rodríguez also defends other dissidents, including the musician Gorki Aguila and Sonia Garro of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), a group formed by wives, daughters and other close relatives of imprisoned dissidents that demonstrates peacefully for their release. The European Parliament awarded it the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2005.

"We already criticized the draconian and cruel treatment of Santiesteban-Prats and other independent news providers a year ago," said Reporters Without Borders head of research Lucie Morillon. "We urge the Cuban authorities to overturn his conviction and free him at once.

"The intimidation to which journalists are constantly subjected in Cuba is extremely worrying. Cuba is ranked lower than any other country in the Americas in the latestReporters Without Borders press freedom index – 170th out of 180 countries."

Although Santiesteban-Prats is the only blogger currently serving a jail sentence, the authorities continue to harass any news provider who challenges the government's propaganda.

Reporters for independent news websites such as Hablemos Press are often arrested arbitrarily and then released a few hours later. The journalist William Cacer Díaz was one of the latest victims of this form of harassment on 14 February.

At least six other independent news providers - including Magaly Novis Otero, Pablo Morales Marchán, Ignacio Luis González Vidal, Denis Noa Martínez and Tamara Rodríguez Quesada – were briefly detained in January.

An open letter to President Raúl Castro that Santiesteban-Prats wrote from his prison cell was posted on his blog today.

Santiesteban-Prats is registered as one of Cuba's two detained news providers in the Reporters Without Borders Barometer. He is listed as a detained netizen (blogger). The other is José Antonio Torres, a Santiago de Cuba-based reporter for the Communist Party daily Granma who has been held since May 2011. Torres is listed as a detained journalist.

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