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Dissident photographer held incommunicado, faces jail on "pre-crime social danger" charge

(RSF/IFEX) - A collective of Havana-based independent journalists called the Centro de Información Hablemos Press (CIHPRESS) is being kept in the dark about where its photographer, María Nélida López Báez, has been held since her arrest by the State Security force on 16 June 2009. Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of López Báez, who was already arrested three times in May.

"The regime once again feels the need to censor and crack down on dissidents and journalists," Reporters Without Borders said. "This helps to explain why it was so contemptuous about the recent decision, obtained thanks to the efforts of other Latin American countries, to let Cuba back into the Organisation of American States (OAS)."

The press freedom organisation added, "Rejoining the OAS would have meant respecting basic freedoms, a clearly unacceptable prospect for the continent's last dictatorship. López's arrest and possible conviction demonstrate this. The international community must press for the release of Cuban political prisoners."

The 19 journalists still being held since the March 2003 "Black Spring" crackdown include fellow photographer Omar Rodríguez Saludes of Nueva Prensa, who received the longest jail sentence - 27 years.

According to CIHPRESS, López Báez's son received a visit at 7 a.m. (local time) on 16 June from a woman who gave him a purse and other personal effects belonging to his mother. The visitor told him his mother had been arrested by the State Security force as she was approaching the CIHPRESS office. He was not told where she is being held.

The State Security force had recently threatened to jail López Báez on a charge of "pre-criminal social danger," a provision often used by the Cuban authorities against individuals who have committed no crime. It allows them to imprison a person solely on the grounds of the "potential" threat they allegedly pose to society.

Three journalists have been convicted on this charge since 2006, receiving sentences ranging from three to four years in prison. They are Oscar Sánchez Madán, a correspondent for the website Cubanet, Ramón Velázquez Toranso, of the Libertad news agency, and Raymundo Perdigón Brito, of Yayabo Press agency.

CIHPRESS also reported that its young correspondent in the southeastern city of Guantánamo, Enyor Díaz Allen, who has been detained since 3 May (World Press Freedom Day), has been sentenced to a year in prison for "insulting behaviour."

A total of 24 journalists are currently in prison in Cuba. They include Reporters Without Borders correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso, the founder of the "De Cuba" magazine and winner of the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom prize. He is serving a 20-year sentence that he received in March 2003.

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