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Cuba21 November 2006

Independent journalist aged 62 is freed after being held without trial for 16 months

Reporters Without Borders today hailed yesterday’s release of journalist Oscar Mario González Pérez of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro independent news agency, who had been held since July 2005. Twenty-three other independent journalists are still detained in Cuba.

“The reasons for González’s release are not known, any more than the real reasons for his arrest and detention without trial for 16 months,” the press freedom organisation said. “His case is unfortunately typical of the absurd repressive methods used in Cuba. By freeing him, the authorities implicitly recognised that have no serious grounds for holding dissident journalists. We hope this is the prelude to the release of the 23 other detained journalists.”

González, 62, was freed from “1580" prison in San Miguel del Padrón (Havana province), where he had been since the start of this year after being held for months in a total of six different state security lockups. The prison authorities had told his family they had no knowledge of any charges against him. He had been placed in the prison’s FD section, FD standing for “falta de documentación” - no documentation.

González, who helped found the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro agency in 1997, was arrested along with 33 other dissidents on 22 July 2005, on the eve of a demonstration that was to have been held outside the French embassy in Havana in protest against the “normalisation” of relations between the European Union and Cuba.

They were all released except a lawyer, a human rights activist and González. These three initially appeared to be facing trial for threatening “Cuba’s territorial independence and economy” under Law 88, for which they could have received 20-year jail terms. But they were never formally charged. The state security police variously told González’s wife, Mirtha Wong, that the indictment “does not exist” or “cannot be found.”

In July, the judicial authorities told his lawyer, Amelia Rodríguez, that he would be tried on a charge of “disturbing the peace,” which could have resulted in a one-year prison sentence. As a result of poor prison conditions, González began suffering from cervical osteoarthritis and high blood pressure while held. Neither of these ailments was properly treated.

Three other Grupo de Trabajo Decoro journalists - Hector Maseda Gutiérrez, Omar Moíses Ruiz Hernández and José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández - have been imprisoned since March 2003.



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