Right Watch, April 25, 2002.
New York, April 25, 2002
Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz
La Habana, Cuba
Dear President Castro:
I am writing to urge you to order the release of Juan Carlos González
Leiva, a human rights activist, as well as five other activists (Delio Laureano
Requejo, Lázaro Iglesias Estrada, Virgilio Mantilla Arango, Enrique García
Morejón, and Antonio García Morejón) and two independent
journalists (Léxter Téllez Castro and Carlos Brizuela Yera) who
were beaten and arbitrarily jailed by Cuban law enforcement authorities on March
4, 2002, in Ciego de Avila, Cuba.
Juan Carlos González Leiva, a blind man, is president of the Cuban
Foundation for Human Rights (Fundación Cubana de Derechos Humanos) and
the Fraternity for the Blind in Cuba (Fraternidad de Ciegos Independientes
Cubanos). He is currently incarcerated in the Department of State Security in
Holguín, and has been accused of public disorder (desorden público)
and contempt (desacato), crimes that carry a possible prison sentence of one to
three years. No trial date has been set in his case.
González was reportedly detained during a visit at the Hospital
Antonio Luaces Iraola, where he went to see an independent journalist who had
been beaten by the police earlier in the day. Jesús Alvarez Castillo, a
reporter from the Cuba Press agency, and Lexter Telles Castro, director of the
Free Press Agency of Ciego de Avila, were traveling to the monthly meeting of
the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, scheduled to take place on March 4, 2002,
when members of the state security police, the national revolutionary police,
and the special brigades reportedly blocked the journalists' passage and
physically attacked them. As a result of the attack, Alvarez lost consciousness,
suffered a neck injury, and was taken to the provincial hospital.
Upon being informed of the incident, Juan Carlos González Leiva went
to the Hospital Antonio Luaces Iraola where Alvarez was hospitalized, along with
several other members of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, members of the
Christian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Cristiano de Liberación), and
two independent journalists. During their visit in the hospital, the group
prayed for Alvarez and, for approximately five to ten minutes, shouted
statements such as "Long live human rights." The group reportedly
stopped shouting and sat down peacefully in a hospital hallway when the hospital
staff requested they be quiet.
According to the reports Human Rights Watch has received, after the group
had been sitting quietly in the hallway for approximately one hour, the state
security police arrived. The state security forces physically dragged the
activists and journalists out of the hospital, hit and kicked some of them,
arrested them, and took them to the Technical Department of Investigations in
Ciego de Avila. The authorities put González in a patrol car, where they
beat him, causing a wound on his forehead that required four stitches.
Since his arrest, González has been moved to the detention facilities
of the Department of State Security in Holguín, approximately 300
kilometers from his home in Ciego de Avila, making it very difficult for his
wife to visit him. The other activists and journalists who were arrested with
González are currently incarcerated in detention centers in Holguín,
Camaguey, and Cienfuegos.
Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that González is not receiving
appropriate treatment in prison. The authorities have taken away his glasses and
the cane he uses to determine where he is walking, and no special accommodations
have been made for his blindness. Moreover, the authorities have reportedly
refused to allow him to keep a Braille Bible that his wife brought to him.
We recognize that shouting in a hospital might be disruptive to other
patients. However, the actions taken by the Cuban authorities against González
and the other human rights advocates and journalists who were with him -
including physical attack, incarceration for over one month, and charging them
with crimes that may carry lengthy prison sentences - were disproportionate to
the actions taken by González and his colleagues on March 4, 2002.
We urge you to order the release of Juan Carlos González Leiva, the
two independent journalists and five activists arrested with him, and the many
others who are incarcerated in Cuba for exercising their
internationally-recognized human rights.
José Miguel Vivanco
© Copyright 2002, Human Rights Watch 350 Fifth
Avenue, 34th Floor New York, NY 10118-3299 USA
Cuba: Beating and Incarceration of
Human Rights Activists Condemned / HRW
beat up and arrest peaceful protesters / Carlos Serpa Maceira
clash with police in Ciego de Avila / CPIC
journalists and eight activists go on hunger strike / CPIC
Christian Human Rights activist beaten and imprisoned in Cuba / Christian
assault journalist / CPJ