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Cuba26 September 2005

Independent news agency editor beaten by 60 pro-government paramilitaries

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep shock today at the public beating which pro-government paramilitaries gave Guillermo Fariñas, the editor of the independent Cubanacán Press agency, in the central city of Santa Clara on 16 September after he took part in a protest against the arrest of a dissident.

“This extremely violent attack on Fariñas shows that Cuban independent journalists are not just under threat from the government but also from ultra-revolutionaries, who in this case vented their anger on Fariñas as the political police looked on,” the press freedom organisation said.

The attack came after Fariñas and some 15 other government opponents demonstrated outside a police station to demand the release of Noelia Pedraza Jiménez, a fellow dissident who had just been arrested. About 100 paramilitaries watched the demonstration.

After announcing to the demonstrators that Pedraza would shortly be released pending trial, Vladimir Méndez Mauad, a captain with the state security department, offered to drive Fariña home as he currently has to use crutches because of a disability and, until recently, had to use a wheelchair.

However, as Fariñas left the police station, a police officer warned him that whatever happened to him outside at the hands of the paramilitaries “will be your problem.”

According to Fariñas, the approximately 60 paramilitaries armed with clubs who were still outside then challenged him, asking him if he had the courage to repeat to them what he had said on Radio Martí (the Miami-based Cuban exile radio station). Kneeling and with his hands behind his head, Fariñas replied: “Why do you listen to Radio Martí if you are revolutionaries?”

After Fariñas refused to say, “Long live Fidel Castro,” they began to insult him and hit him with their clubs until one of them call a halt, fearing that they would kill him in public. Political instructors with the ruling Communist Party of Cuba then drove him to a deserted spot 23 km outside the city and dumped him there.

Fariñas told Reporters Without Borders his arms and hands are so swollen from the beating that he can no longer write or use a computer keyboard. He added that he thought he was now top of the list of people to be arrested in “the next crackdown.”

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