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Dissident doctor and reporter paroled after nearly a year in pre-trial detention

(RSF/IFEX) - Darsi Ferrer, a dissident public health activist who contributes to independent news media, was finally tried on 22 June 2010 on charges of "irregularities" and "assault" and was granted a conditional release after being held without trial since July 2009.

A physician who heads the independent Juan Bruno Zayas Health and Human Rights Centre, Ferrer angered authorities by gathering and disseminating information about the current state of the Cuban health system and the situation of political prisoners.

Ferrer had been held in Valle Grande prison, west of Havana, since his arrest on 21 July 2009, for which the official reason was his "illegal" acquisition of building materials to repair his house. Prosecutors requested a three-year jail sentence, but the court sentenced him on 22 June 2010 to 15 months and said he could serve the remaining four months under house arrest.

"We are obviously relieved by Ferrer's release even if he was finally given a jail sentence to match the time he already had spent behind bars," Reporters Without Borders said. "No one is fooled about the real reason for his detention as this is a country in which the authorities tolerate no public expression of dissenting views. His release was not in any way an act of clemency or, even less so, a sign of an improvement in respect for basic rights and freedoms."

Cuba still has approximately 200 prisoners of conscience, who include 24 journalists. One of them is the Reporters Without Borders correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso, who has been held since the "Black Spring" crackdown of March 2003.

Dissidents continue to be the target of harassment, repression and hate campaigns by the authorities and their supporters. Hablemos Press, a small independent news agency, reported that two more journalists, José Manuel Caraballo Bravo and Raúl Arias Márquez of the Agencia de Prensa Libre Avileña (APLA), were arrested on 21 June 2010.

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its appeal to the community of Latin American countries to intercede on behalf of Cuba's imprisoned journalists and dissidents, some of whom have fallen seriously ill since their arrest.

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