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Government breaks promise by keeping three "Black Spring" journalists in prison

(RSF/IFEX) - 8 November 2010 - The deadline expired on 7 November 2010. The Cuban government promised the Spanish government, the Cuban Catholic church and the international community that within four months it would free all the prisoners still held since the "Black Spring" crackdown of March 2003. The four months were up yesterday and the promise has not been kept.

Thirteen of these detainees are still in prison. They include three journalists: Pedro Argüelles Morán, Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez and Iván Hernández Carrillo. The reason for the broken promise is unfortunately known only too well. The thirteen still held are refusing to go into exile, which is the Castro regime's condition for their release.

Sending the prisoners into exile allows the regime to maintain the sentences that were imposed on the dissidents, who were convicted during the "Black Spring" trials on charges of being "enemies" and "mercenaries" in the pay of a foreign power.

The international community must keep up the pressure for the release of Cuba's political prisoners. They include two other journalists, making five in all. That is still a lot. Cuba is on the agenda of a European Parliament subcommittee meeting today. The European Union's position must be maintained until all the prisoners of conscience have been released unconditionally.

When Reporters Without Borders calls for the lifting of the U.S. embargo of Cuba that has been kept in place since 1962, it is counting on the countries of Latin America to make an effort to get Cuba to respect human rights and civil liberties.

Of the 19 journalists still in prison when Fidel Castro officially transferred the presidency to his brother Raúl in 2008, 16 were released between July and October 2010 but had to leave the country immediately. They included our correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso, the founder of the magazine "De Cuba". Most of the exiled journalists are now living in Spain.

Of those still in prison, Reporters Without Borders is particularly concerned about Argüelles. Aged 62, he is from Ciégo de Ávila, where he helped launch an independent journalists cooperative, Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes (CAPI), in 1999. Sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003, he has been badly affected by his time in prison and is now blind. He is also mourning the death of one of his children. "I don't want to leave my country, I am Cuban," he said recently on the Miami-based Radio Martí.

Argüelles is indeed a Cuban citizen, like his compatriots who were forced to go into exile in return for their release. The Cuban authorities do not have the right to deny him his nationality because of his opinions and even less to impose the official disgrace of having to leave his own country. By doing this, the regime is violating the two UN conventions on civil and political rights that it signed in 2008 without ever ratifying.

Similarly Fariñas, the winner of the 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, must be allowed to travel to Strasbourg together with the Ladies in White – the winners of the 2005 Sakharov Prize – to receive the prize on 15 December and must then be allowed to return to Cuba.

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