Reporters Without Borders today condemned journalist Oscar Mario González Pérez’s continuing detention as “arbitrary and absurd” after the Havana police told his lawyer they could not find his file. González, who writes for the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro independent news agency, has been held without trial since 22 July. He is currently in a state security cell and his health is failing.
“The Cuban authorities originally said they intended to try González for refusing to stop working as a journalist, and yet now they have indicated to his lawyer and his family that there is no written record of any charges”, Reporters Without Borders said.
“If there are no charges against him, why deprive him of his freedom?” the organisation continued. “It is just as arbitrary to detain González as it is to detain the 23 other journalists currently held in Cuba, but in his case there is the added absurdity of a non-existent prosecution. Once against we call for his immediate and unconditional release and that of all his colleagues.”
The Cubanet website reported on 16 December that his lawyer, Amelia Rodríguez, was unable to see her client’s file when she went to the Technical Investigations Department (DTI) in Havana, where he is currently being held. His wife, Mirtha Wong, said she heard the political police say several times that the file did not exist.
However, a Havana judge told González on 27 July, five days after he was arrested, that he would be tried under Law 88, which “protects Cuba’s national independence and economy.” This law, which provides for prison sentences of up to 20 years, was used to convict the dissidents arrested in the spring 2003 crackdown, including 27 journalists. Twenty of them are still detained, serving terms of between 14 and 27 years.
González was arrested on the eve of a planned demonstration by dissidents in which was to have participated. Since then he has been moved five times, from one police station to another and finally to the premises shared by the State Security Directorate and the DTI. Aged 61, he has been put in a filthy, two-metre cell with three non-political detainees. According to his wife, he is let out of the cell for only half an hour a day.
Another journalist, Roberto de Jésus Guerra Pérez, who was arrested on 13 July and who has also not been tried, is being held at the same centre.
Three of the journalists who have been in prison since March 2003 also worked for the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency. They are Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez (who is serving a 20-year prison sentence), Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández (who was sentenced to 18 years) and José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández (sentenced to 16 years).