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Cuba8 June 2006

Independent journalist put in preventive detention on “public disorder” charge

Armando Betancourt, an independent contributor to Nueva Prensa Cubana, was placed in preventive detention at Cerámica Roja de Camagüey prison, on 5 June 2006, accused of “public disorder”. Others who were arrested with him were released while awaiting trial. Reporters Without Borders protests against this abusive and unjustified imprisonment and calls for the journalist’s immediate release. Betancourt was allowed to receive a visit from his family on 31 May 2006. His mother, Guillermina Reyna, said afterwards that her son was in good health and strongly defended his principles and his position.

31.05.06 - Independent journalist arrested while covering police operation, put in solitary

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the arrest of independent journalist Armando Betancourt while covering the eviction of squatters in the central city of Camagüey on 23 May and the fact that he has been kept in a solitary confinement by the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) ever since.

“We firmly condemn his arbitrary arrest and solitary confinement,” the press freedom organisation said. “If the Camagüey police were acting within the law when evicting a group of illegal squatters, why did it bother them that a reporter covered the operation? By arresting an unwanted witness, the authorities are highlighting their determination to censor news and information. Betancourt must be freed at once.”

Armando, who reports for the Miami-based Nueva Prensa Cubana news website, went to cover the eviction of families squatting at a dump in Camagüey on 23 May and began to question some of the people present, who were protesting against the heavy-handed police operation.

Dissident Ernesto Corría said the police approached Betancourt and asked him to identify himself. When he said he was an independent journalist, he was immediately arrested and taken in a truck to a police station on Avellaneda street. From there he was transferred to the premises of the PNR’s 3rd detachment in Camagüey on 29 May. Neither his parents nor his wife have been allowed to see him and his present situation is unknown.

The police said he is charged with “disturbing the peace.” According to Corría, other people present at the eviction were also arrested. The police told Betancourt’s family they would be able to visit him today if he was still being held at the 3rd detachment. But the police refused to let the family bring him clean clothes.

A Reporters Without Borders source said Betancourt had been hit many times by the police and was badly bruised, and this was why he was being kept in isolation.

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