On his appearance before the Playa municipal court in Havana on 28 February, Oscar Espinosa Chepe was told his “social attitude” would be monitored on a daily basis and he would have to apply 72 hours in advance if he wishes to leave the capital. The independent journalist will therefore be under constant surveillance by the Communist Party and Youth wing, the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution, the Association of the Combatants of the Cuban Revolution and the Federation of Cuban Women. He has to report on 6 March to the representatives of these bodies, who will check on his “behaviour” and relay it to the court. In the event of any infringements on his part or improvement in his health, his release on licence, since 29 November 2004, will be revoked and he will be returned to prison. Espinosa Chepe is also banned from changing his residence without the court’s approval.
He did however obtain a dispensation from working for a state body, as ordered by the president of the Playa court, Sandra Méndez, on account of his age. He is 65 years old.
28.02.06 - Two journalists face re-imprisonment in a “judicial farce”
Reporters Without Borders said it feared that court summonses issued to independent journalists Oscar Espinosa Chepe and Jorge Olivera Castillo mean they will be sent back to jail.
The two men, who were imprisoned in the March 2003 crackdown, were released on health grounds at the end of 2004. They then both sought and were refused permission to leave Cuba.
“These ill-timed court summonses look like a judicial farce”, said the press freedom organisation. “What is the point of trying to get independent journalists to give up their work, knowing full well that they will never do so?” asked the press freedom organisation. “If the Cuban authorities are so determined to silence Oscar Espinosa Chepe and Jorge Olivera Castillo why don’t they grant their request to leave the country? The repression of dissident voices is in any event doomed to failure”, it added.
Espinosa Chepe, who was sentenced in April 2003 to 20 years in prison, was released on licence for health reasons on 29 November 2004. “I am in danger of having this licence revoked which would mean going back to prison”, he told Reporters Without Borders.
“A new crackdown is sweeping the country and the independent press is first in line”, he said on the eve of his court appearance on 28 February 2006 before the Playa municipal court in Havana.
Olivera Castillo, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2003 and released on 6 December 2004, is due to appear on 1st March before Old Havana municipal court, which previously summoned him on 21 February. At that hearing, the judges informed him that he was banned from leaving the city and ordered him to work for a state organisation.
They told him he would be immediately returned to prison if he broke these rules. The 1st March hearing could well mean the confirmation of this measure, since, as he told Reporters Without Borders as he left court on 21 February, he has no intention of giving up his journalistic work.
Elsewhere, the East Havana municipal court on 15 February sentenced Reinaldo Cosado Alén, of the independent Lux Info Press news agency to a “work order without imprisonment” because of a fine equivalent to 1,000 euros that had supposedly gone unpaid for ten years.