Amnesty names Cuban dissident a ‘prisoner of conscience,’ a month after recognizing 5 others
Amnesty names Cuban dissident a ‘prisoner of conscience,’ a month after
recognizing 5 others
BY ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS SEPTEMBER 11, 2013
HAVANA – Amnesty International designated a sixth Cuban dissident jailed
in the island nation as a “prisoner of conscience” Wednesday and called
for his immediate and unconditional release.
Ivan Fernandez Depestre, 40, was arrested July 30 in the central
province of Santa Clara during an event marking the 56th anniversary of
the death of Cuban revolutionary Frank Pais, the London-based human
rights group said in a statement.
It said Fernandez was convicted of pre-criminal “dangerousness,” under
which Cubans can be held for “special proclivity to commit crimes,” and
sentenced to three years. Critics accuse the government of using the
statute to punish dissidents for their political beliefs.
“It is a sad reflection of the state of the rule of law in Cuba when
people are convicted to prison terms not for what they have done but for
what they might do,” Amnesty special adviser Javier Zuniga said in the
Cuban officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Authorities consider Cuba’s small community of outspoken dissidents to
be traitorous counterrevolutionaries who accept foreign money to try to
undermine the Communist system. They deny holding any political prisoners.
In recent years Cuba cleared its lockups of internationally recognized
prisoners of conscience, with the last of 75 dissidents jailed in a 2003
crackdown walking free in 2011 thanks to a deal brokered by the Roman
Many went into exile with their families, although others remained in Cuba.
Amnesty recognized five other Cuban “prisoners of conscience” last month.
But for the most part, activists say brief catch-and-release detentions
have replaced long jail terms as a strategy for keeping dissent in check.
Elizardo Sanchez, who heads a Cuba-based non-governmental group that
monitors opposition arrests, said there was no proof Fernandez had
committed any crime, and expressed surprise at the sentence.
“We support Amnesty International’s petition,” Sanchez said.
Fernandez is not a well-known dissident, and Sanchez said he does not
have a long history as an activist.
Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP
Source: “Amnesty names Cuban dissident a ‘prisoner of conscience,’ a
month after recognizing 5 others” –