Friday, February 9, 2007 (Havana)
Caribbean Net News
Veteran dissident attorney Rene Gomez Manzano, who helped organize an unprecedented gathering of opponents two years ago, was unexpectedly released from jail Thursday after 19 months without being charged.
Gomez Manzano said he had little information about what had occurred in his country since he was jailed in July 2005, but didn’t think Fidel Castro’s illness, or the ceding of power to his brother Raul, had anything to do with the release.
The 63-year-old was released on Thursday morning in the central city of Santi Spiritus and arrived at his home in Havana before noon.
He was jailed for allegedly violating a law that prohibits Cubans from working with a foreign power to undermine the island’s communist system.
He was in a group of dissidents picked up on July 22, 2005 as they prepared for a protest outside the French Embassy.
The month after Gomez Manzano’s arrest, other leading members of Cuba’s opposition had said he was expected to face trial for Law 88, or “Law for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy.”
“Supposedly, my case is based on an alleged infraction of Law “88”,” the white-haired Gomez Manzano, looking pallid as a breeze wafted through the whitewashed living room of his wooden flat.
“Therefore, I don’t know what legal subterfuge they used to free me when my record clearly says that I’m accused of crimes against the state. That’s what’s on the document,” he said.
Despite his jailing, Gomez Manzano, an opponent of Castro’s rule since the 1980s, said he would continue his activism.
“We believe we must stay in Cuba and work toward making the changes this country so desperately needs,” he said.
Gomez Manzano said he had undertaken two hunger strikes during his time behind bars to protest against his jailing - one for three days, and another for eight days.
In both cases, he said, jail authorities administered intravenous fluids to keep him alive.