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Twelfth writer released into exile

Régis Iglesias Ramírez
Régis Iglesias Ramírez
(WiPC/IFEX) - 18 August 2010 - The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN is pleased to report the release of another Cuban writer imprisoned since 2003. Poet and activist Régis Iglesias Ramírez was freed on 17 August 2010 and arrived in Madrid the next day. Iglesias' release, along with that of journalist José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández in late July, means that a total of 12 writers have now been freed and exiled since 12 July. Both Iglesias and Izquierdo travelled to Spain with their families as a part of a deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish government. The WiPC welcomes this news, but remains concerned that the prisoners are apparently obliged to leave Cuba as a precondition of their release. It continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of the 13 other Cuban writers, journalists and librarians still in prison for their writings.

Régis Iglesias Ramírez (40), poet and activist for the pro-democracy Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and the Varela Project, was released on 17 August 2010 and travelled immediately to Spain with his family, arriving the next day. Two other dissidents, another MCL member and a doctor, were reportedly released and exiled at the same time.

The previous writer to be freed was José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, freelance journalist (independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro and CubaNet), librarian (director of Sebastián Arcos Bergnes library) and pro-democracy activist, who arrived in Spain on 23 July. Izquierdo reportedly intends to resettle with his family in Chile, which has offered him political asylum.

Press reports indicate that the release of Iglesias and the two other activists marks the beginning of a second phase of releases, following the freeing of 11 journalists between 12 and 22 July. Three more imprisoned journalists are reportedly due to be sent to Spain in the coming days: Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, Fabio Prieto Llorente and Juan Adolfo Fernández Sainz.


BACKGROUND:

Under a deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish foreign ministry and announced in July, the Cuban government has reportedly agreed to release all 52 dissidents imprisoned since the March 2003 crackdown. However, it is now thought that the government is ready to go further and may release all of the country's Cuba's political prisoners, estimated to number around 150 in total.

One of the conditions of the prisoners' release is apparently that they agree to be exiled to Spain, although they will be free to move elsewhere thereafter. Both the USA and Chile have reportedly offered to take in the dissidents. The remaining detainees are due to be released over the next three to four months. However, some are reportedly refusing to leave Cuba; it is still not clear what will happen in these cases.

The Cuban government has not explained why it has agreed to the releases. However, the regime has come under increasing pressure from the international community following the 23 February death of imprisoned dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo after an 85-day hunger strike for better prison conditions, harassment of the dissident group 'Ladies in White' during protests in March and April, and reports in early July that the journalist Guillermo Fariñas who went on hunger strike following Zapata's death was himself in danger of dying. Fariñas reportedly called off his hunger strike after the releases were announced. However, Zapata Tamayo's mother has reportedly suffered repeated harassment during the regular marches she carries out in memory of her late son (for more information click here).

Twenty-two of the 52 Cuban dissidents to be released are writers, independent journalists and librarians whose cases have been followed by International PEN. Following the release of the 12 writers since 12 July, a total of 13 other writers remain in jail, 10 of whom have also been held since March 2003.

Details of the two most recently released writers:

Régis IGLESIAS RAMÍREZ: poet, writer and member of the pro-democracy Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (Christian Liberation Movement) and Varela Project. Date of birth: 18 September 1969. Sentence: 18 years. Charge: Article 91. Publications: Two volumes of poetry written while in prison: Historias gentiles antes de la Resurrección (Aduana Vieja, Cádiz, 2004) and Memorias de otoño (Editorial Hispano Cubana, Spain, 2010). Honorary Member: New Zealand PEN.

José Ubaldo IZQUIERDO HERNÁNDEZ: freelance journalist (independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro and CubaNet), librarian (director of Sebastián Arcos Bergnes library) and pro-democracy activist. Date of birth: 6 November 1965. Sentence: 16 years. Charge: Article 91.


RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send appeals:
• welcoming the release of two more writers, Régis Iglesias Ramírez and José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, as well as the Cuban government's reported intention to release the 10 other writers who have been imprisoned since March 2003;
• however, expressing concern that the writers have apparently been obliged to leave Cuba as a precondition of their release;
• calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the 13 writers, journalists and librarians still held in violation of their right to freedom of expression, 10 of whom have been imprisoned since 2003.


APPEALS TO:

Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
+1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: [email protected] (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia / Your Excellency

Interior Minister
General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
+1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Señor Ministro / Dear Minister

Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Cuba in your country.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with the WiPC if sending appeals after 18 October 2010.

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