Reporters sans frontičres
28 July 2005
Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today on learning that independent journalist Oscar Mario González Perez of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency, who was arrested on 22 July in Havana, is to be prosecuted under Law 88 protecting Cuba’s “national independence and economy” and faces up to 20 years in prison in a sham trial.
“The announcement of a trial is the same as the announcement of a conviction in Cuba,” the press freedom organisation said. “González is going to join the long list of 21 journalists who have been imprisoned since March 2003 for trying to practice their trade freely and for not sharing the government’s views.”
González was arrested at the same time as 33 other dissidents in Havana, just before a planned demonstration outside the French embassy to criticise the “normalisation” of relations between Cuba and the European Union. Nine of the 33 are still being held, including two others who are to be prosecuted under Law 88, lawyer Rene Gomez Manzano and political activist Julio Cesar Lopez.
Describing the arrests as a cruel reminder of the “Black Spring” crackdown in 2003, Reporters Without Borders accused the Cuban regime of “once again revealing the full extent of its arbitrary power and paranoia” and said it was probably no coincidence that a journalist, a lawyer and a political activist have been singled out.
Noting that those arrested had wanted to alert the EU about the human rights situation in Cuba, the press freedom organisation said it has written to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, which currently holds the EU presidency, asking the European Union “to reconsider its position as regards Cuba and to apply the necessary pressure so that all the dissidents are released.”
González’s daughter Elena Isaieva, who lives in exile in the Swedish city of Uppsala, told Reporters Without Borders : “My father has been taken to four different police stations since his arrest. A Havana judge notified about his trial yesterday morning. The trial will probably be quick and the sentence will probably be heavy. My father is 61. It is as if he is going to be sentenced to death. Nonetheless, I was hoping until the last moment.”
No date for the trial has yet been set.
When González was summoned and questioned by two state security agents in Havana on 24 March, he was threatened with never seeing his family again if he continued to work as a journalist. He was offered the chance of going to Sweden where his daughter lives, but he refused.
He told Reporters Without Borders afterwards that he would not give up being a journalist and would continue to write. “That is the way he is, he will never give up,” his daughter told Reporters Without Borders.
Three of the journalists who have been in prison since March 2003 and who were convicted under Law 88 are members of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency. They are Hector Maseda Gutierrez (who is serving a 20-year prison sentence), Omar Moises Ruiz Hernández (who was sentenced to 18 years) and Jose Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández (sentenced to 16 years).
An emergency law promulgated in March 1999, Law 88 has the stated aim of “responding to the repeated attacks by the United States against Cuba’s independence and sovereignty” by punishing “actions which, in accordance with imperialist interests, seek to subvert the nation’s internal order and destroy its political, economic and social system.” It overrides all preceding legislation and gives the regime a free hand to stifle all dissent under the pretext of resisting foreign aggression.