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Posted September 03, 2009 by publisher in Cuban American Politics

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By CURT ANDERSON | Associated Press

(original title: Judge: Cuba must pay $27.5M for jailing journalist)

MIAMI — A federal judge ordered the Cuban government and the ruling Communist Party on Wednesday to pay $27.5 million in damages to the mother of a journalist jailed since a 2003 crackdown on dissent.

U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold ruled in the case of Omar Rodriguez Saludes, who is serving a 27-year sentence in Cuban prisons that the judge described as “deplorable and degrading” in his 13-page order.

“During his imprisonment, he has been beaten, starved, given poor food, placed in solitary confinement and deprived of medical treatment,” Gold wrote, quoting from allegations in the lawsuit. “I have no doubt that the acts of the Cuban government are intended to oppress those in Cuba who seek to freely voice their opinions.”

The judge said the family deserved to be compensated for “the intentional infliction of emotional distress” it has endured because of the son’s mistreatment by Cuba.

The lawsuit was filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows non-U.S. citizens access to courts to challenge violations of international laws or treaties.

The ruling awards $25 million in punitive damages against the Cuban Communist Party and $2.5 million in compensatory damages against the government of President Raul Castro.

Attorney Pedro Martinez-Fraga, who represents the jailed journalist’s mother, said the case sets important legal precedents by finding the Cuban Communist Party is inseparable from the government and by issuing damages for the family of a living person.

“A very, very strong message is being sent about how Cuban damages are going to be awarded in the future in federal court, or any court,” Martinez-Fraga said.

Olivia Saludes, the mother who filed the lawsuit six years ago, did not immediately return a telephone message at her home in Monticello, Kentucky. Gold’s ruling said Cuban authorities have not permitted her Cuban-born son to call her and denied her visa applications.

No one representing Cuba ever responded to the lawsuit, leading Gold in 2008 to issue a default judgment. Officials at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington did not immediately respond to a telephone call and an e-mail seeking comment.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute, a group dedicated to press freedom and freedom of expression, reported in July that Rodriguez Saludes was serving the longest sentence of 22 independent journalists currently jailed in Cuba. The 2003 crackdown led to the arrests of 79 Cuban critics, pro-democracy activists and other dissidents, according to IPI.

There have been many similar judgments against Cuba over the years. Collecting damages, when it happens at all, can take years and many more court battles involving Cuban assets held by U.S. entities or overseas.

Saludes attorney Martinez-Fraga said one potential source is people in the U.S. who owe debts to Cuba.

“I am extremely optimistic about satisfying the judgment,” he said.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on September 03, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Wow. I can’t believe that somebody can sue for this and I can’t believe a judge would hear the case let alone award any money but in Miami, shameful acts against US freedom is not out of the ordinary.

    Of course I think it was appalling for Fidel to arrest those dissidents. I know the claim was that they were working for or with the US government and/or the Miami Mafia and of course they didn’t get a fair trial but how does a mother get awarded money for son who is convicted of a crime in another country?

    Imagine all the lawsuits that can be brought against foreign governments under this argument. It’s crazy, a stain on the US justice system and shameful to ALL parties involved.

    SHAME on the mother Olivia Saludes.

    SHAME on her lawyer Pedro Martinez-Fraga.

    SHAME on judge Alan S. Gold

    “No one representing Cuba ever responded to the lawsuit, leading Gold in 2008 to issue a default judgment.”

    Really? So pretty much anyone with a hardship against Cuba can just file a lawsuit then the stupid judge feels justified giving someone $27.5 million dollars?

    Disgusting. I am ashamed for our legal system.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on September 03, 2009 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    can you imagine Cuba, North Korea, China, Iraq, etc having lawsuits in their local courts against the US govt for killings, injuries, damages by the US govt and its agents?  Am sure if they then tried to seize US assets to pay for teh judgements, the US govt would be the first to scream unjust (and send in the marines)
    I also wish that Cuba would move forward and get over this chapter of jailing those that are critical against teh Cuban government.  As for those who work against the government, that gets trickier - real active work aginst verses criticism that leads to trumped up charges.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on September 03, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    While it looks that the objective of this court case was the money and not the wellbeing of the jailed dissident, I have to say that something has to be done to get these people free.
    Here we are giving our free opinions while they are enduring tremendous hardship on a dirty Cuban jail.
    That is another example of the Cuban government propaganda machine that is able to keep the 5 proven and convicted spies on the open eye while shadowing the fact that there are hundreds of peaceful dissidents expending decades on the Cuban gulags for the simple crime of claiming for freedom.
    I disagree with the method used but I feel that something has to be done to free these people and maybe that was the method they found to give relevance to the cause.

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