News and Facts about Cuba

Amnesty: Cuba Releases 3 Prisoners of Conscience

Amnesty: Cuba Releases 3 Prisoners of Conscience
By PETER ORSI Associated Press
HAVANA January 23, 2012 (AP)

Amnesty International said Monday that three Cubans held without charge
for 52 days following their arrest at a protest were released last week,
hours after the group named them as prisoners of conscience.

The release of the three also came a day after a hunger-striking
died, prompting condemnation from island dissidents, rights
watchers, the United States and other nations. Amnesty had planned to
designate Wilman Villar, 31, a prisoner of conscience but he died in
custody before it could.

Ivonne Malleza Galano, Ignacio Martinez Montejo and Isabel Haydee
Alvarez were set free Jan. 20 but threatened with "harsh sentences" if
they do not stop their anti-government actions, the human rights monitor
said in a statement Monday.

It said all three were detained at a Nov. 30 protest in Havana at which
Malleza and Martinez held a banner that read "Stop hunger, misery and
poverty in Cuba." Alvarez was for objecting when security
forces took the other two into custody.

"Amnesty International had adopted them as prisoners of conscience, as
they were detained solely for exercising their right to of
and freedom of assembly, and had called for their immediate
and unconditional release," the statement said.

Cuba considers dissident activity to be counterrevolutionary, and the
dissidents to be mercenaries out to bring down the communist-run
government. It denies holding any political prisoners in its lockups.

Amnesty, which has strict criteria for who constitutes a "prisoner of
conscience" including a history of nonviolence, had not recognized any
Cuban inmates as such since the previous spring, when the last of 75
dissidents jailed since a 2003 crackdown were freed.

Villar was arrested in November in the eastern city of Santiago
following an anti-government protest.

The Cuban government denied that he had been on hunger strike or was
even truly a dissident. It described him as a "common criminal" sent to
for domestic , said he received all the medical attention
he needed and alleged that his case was being manipulated for political

Authorities' indignation continued Monday as official newspapers Granma
and Trabajadores published an editorial titled "Cuba's Truths." Taking
up the entire front pages of both publications, it attacked critics' own
records on human rights and defended the island, citing achievements in
care, and literacy, and calling the accusations a smear
campaign by Cuba's enemies.

"The so-called was serving a sentence of four years,
following a fair process … and a trial according to the rule of law,
for brutally and publicly beating his wife, threatening and
violently resisting arrest," the editorial said

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which
monitors detentions of dissidents in Cuba, sent an open letter to the
government demanding access to the investigation.

It said it wanted to confirm or rule out its belief that Villar was
unfairly and disproportionately punished for his political activities,
held in solitary confinement and given inadequate medical care when he
went on hunger strike. Signed by Commission founder Elizardo Sanchez, a
dissident and former prisoner himself, the letter doubted that Villar
was truly imprisoned for beating his wife.

"The family incident from July 2011 should be clarified, as well as the
reasons why he would be freed and sent back to the family home despite
the possible risks from a supposed situation of domestic violence," it read.

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