Reporters Without Borders has learned that independent journalist Oscar Mario González Pérez, who has been held without being charged or tried since 22 July 2005, could soon be tried on a charge of disturbing the peace, which is punishable by up to a year in prison.
González’s wife, Mirtha Wong, said this is what the Cuban authorities have just told his lawyer, Amelia Rodríguez Calá.
González was arrested during a July 2005 crackdown after a peaceful opposition demonstration outside the French embassy in Havana. His conditions of detention are very bad and he has been moved from one place to another seven times since his arrest. His state of health is a constant source of concern to his wife as his chronic gastritis and high blood pressure are not being treated properly.
18.07.06 - Two independant journalists complete a year in detention without trial
Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its support for two independent journalists, Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez and Oscar Mario González Pérez, who have been held without trial since their arrests one week apart a year ago.
Guerra was a regular contributor to the US-based Radio Martí and the Nueva Prensa Cubana and Payolibre websites until his arrest on 13 July 2005. He was also a member of a news centre operated by La Corriente Martiana, a patriotic group.
Arrested on 22 July 2005, González is one of the founders of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, an independent news agency of which three members - Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández and José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, have been in prison since a major crackdown in the spring of 2003.
“The plight of Guerra and González suggests that the Cuban authorities apparently no longer need a court’s permission to throw journalists in prison,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is clearly no longer essential for them to maintain a semblance of the rule of law when jailing people whose only crime was to try to report the news freely.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “In the absence of any charges against these journalists and in view of their state of health, we call for their immediate release and that of the 20 journalists who have been imprisoned since March 2003. We also call for the release of their colleague, Armando Betancourt, who has been held without any official reason being given since 23 May of this year.”
González’s wife, Mirtha Wong, told Reporters Without Borders that González (photo) is currently being held in the prison known as “1580” in San Miguel de Padrón, in Havana province. Aged 62, he is in the “FD” section of the prison reserved for those for whom there is a “Falta de Documentación,” meaning a “lack of documentation.” The prison authorities say they are unaware of the charges against him.
“We have been waiting and waiting,” Wong told Reporters Without Borders. “We have hired a lawyer but there is nothing she can do. “The authorities never talk to her about any indictment, less still a date for his trial.” On several occasions Wong has heard officials with the State Security Directorate (the political police) say her husband’s charge sheet could not be located or was “non-existent.”
Because of his journalistic activities, González had frequent run-ins with State Security prior to his arrest along with 33 other dissidents on the eve of an opposition demonstration. All were freed except González and two others, a lawyer and a human rights activist. There was talk of their being charged under Law 88, which protects “Cuba’s territorial independence and economy.” In fact, González has never been charged although he has been moved seven times from one detention centre to another.
In the course of his year in detention he has suffered from severe cervical osteoarthritis, dizziness, high blood pressure and a significant loss of muscle strength. He spent more than three months without being treated, waiting for medicine that was never given to him. His right arm is now affected by the osteoarthritis.
Guerra (photo), 27, is currently being held at the headquarters of the police force’s Department for Technical Investigation (DTI) in Havana. While previously held for three months in ordinary police cells, he staged several hunger strikes which resulted in a rapid deterioration in his health and his transfer to a military hospital.
An asthma sufferer, he was held until November 2005 in an insect-infested cell with no bed and no ventilation. His wife, Iliana Tamayo, is very alarmed about his state of health. She told Reporters Without Borders he is not getting proper food or medical treatment.
He was arrested “for disturbing the peace” when he and a dozen other members of La Corriente Martiana staged a hunger strike in protest against repression. His wife and another activist were arrested with him but they were released by State Security. Like González, Guerra has never been charged or tried.
An independent contributor to the Nueva Prensa Cubana, Betancourt (photo) was arrested by the police for “disturbing the peace” in the central city of Camagüey. He is now being held without charge by the State Security. His lawyer filed a request of his release at the start of this month. The courts are normally supposed to respond within 15 days.