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Cuba14 December 2006

Young journalist freed after being held eight days at state security headquarters

Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the news that Ahmed Rodríguez Albacia of the Jóvenes sin Censura independent news agency was released on 12 December after being held for eight days at the headquarters of the Directorate for State Security (the political police) in Havana.

Aged 22, Rodríguez said he was escorted back to his home in Havana by two State Security agents - Captain “Águila” and Officer “Eliécer” - who warned him he would remain under surveillance for “disseminating false news that threatened international peace.” He was arrested in a raid on his home on 4 December in which agents seized his equipment and files.

06.12.06 - Havana reporter arrested by State Security, while provincial journalist gets four years for being “social danger”

Reporters Without Borders called today for the immediate and unconditional release of Ahmed Rodríguez Albacia of the Jóvenes sin Censura independent news agency, who was arrested by the State Security police on 4 December in Havana. The organisation also condemned the four-year prison sentence passed on independent journalist Raymundo Perdigón Brito yesterday for being a “pre-criminal danger to society.”

“Rodríguez Albacia and his family have been the victims of constant harassment by the political police since the start of the year,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This young journalist was even detained and ordered to stop his journalistic activities in September. This time the State Security has deprived him of his work material and thrown him in prison. Is any further proof needed that he been arrested simply for being a journalist?”

The organisation added: “We call for his immediate release and that of Perdigón Brito, who has been given a four-year sentence for the same reason, in his case on the false and absurd grounds that he poses a danger to society.”

On the morning of 4 December, around 30 members of the State Security Directorate and National Revolutionary Police conducted a heavy-handed search of the Havana apartment where Rodríguez Albacia and his mother live. The Miami-based news website Cubanet quoted a neighbour as saying the police confiscated a tape-recorder and tapes, a laptop, a fax machine and all of Rodríguez Albacia’s files.

Rodríguez Albacia suffered a high blood pressure attack during the raid, and was driven to a hospital before being taken to the State Security’s Technical Investigation Department, where he is currently held.

Jóvenes sin Censura is a new independent news agency that was founded in September 2005 in the eastern province of Holguín, where Rodríguez Albacia was originally from. He was previously arrested on 15 September in Havana and held for 24 hours by the political police (see 18 September release). He will be 22 on 10 December.

Perdigón Brito’s four-year prison sentence was handed down by a court in the central province of Sancti Spíritus. The Cuban criminal code allows the authorities to arrest anyone as a “pre-criminal danger to society” even if they have committed no offence, simply on the grounds that they pose a potential threat. The charge is often used to detain dissidents.

A dissident journalist based in Cuba told Reporters Without Borders that Perdigón Brito was arrested by the State Security on 29 November and told to cease his journalist activities or be sent to prison. Twelve days earlier, he had founded a small independent news agency, Yayabo Press, with his sister Ana Margarita Perdigón, who is taking over as its editor. “The political police knew this and did everything to ensure the news agency is disbanded as soon as possible,” the dissident source added.

Around 100 demonstrators attacked Perdigón Brito’s relatives as they left the court on 5 December and his father had to be hospitalised after receiving a blow to the chest. Perdigón Brito is being held in the Sancti Spíritus provincial prison, located near the town of Guayos.

The detention of Rodríguez Albacia and Perdigón Brito brings the number of journalists imprisoned in Cuba to 25.

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