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Cuba7 August 2002

Angel Pablo Polanco is released

Angel Pablo Polanco of the Servicio Noticuba independent news agency was released on the evening of 3 August after being held for five days. He has been placed under judicial control and must appear twice a month before police authorities. Whereas State Security had told his family he was being held at the State Security’s Villa Maristas headquarters, he was in fact held at the Ministry of Interior in Havana, where he underwent a long interrogation. He is being prosecuted for "incitement to commit a crime", "insulting an agent of the State", and "insulting the symbols of the nation" and could receive a three-year jail sentence. He has been given no explanation for these charges and has not been told when he will be tried.

02.08.2002 - A fifth journalist jailed

Reporters Without Borders called today for the immediate and unconditional release of Cuban journalist Angel Pablo Polanco of the Servicio Noticuba independent press agency, who was arrested on 30 July.

"This arrest shows the independent press is one of the favorite targets of the repression against the opposition," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Cuban President Fidel Castro. Ménard noted that Cuba is currently the only country in Latin America where journalists are still being imprisoned.

Reporters Without Borders also called for the release of independent journalists Carlos Alberto Domínguez, Lester Téllez Castro, Carlos Brizuela Yera and Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, who has been in jail since November 1997.

 image 110 x 118 (PNG) Polanco was arrested at his home in Havana on 30 July. State Security officials came to his home in the early hours of the morning and searched it for several hours. According to Polanco’s wife, Angela Salinas, the security officials seized technical material, many documents and money. Finally, at around 9 pm, they arrested Polanco without giving any reason or showing a warrant. When Polanco refused to go with them, they took him away by force. He has been detained at State Security headquarters in Villa Maristas, in Havana. His wife, who has been authorised to visit him on 6 August, has said she does not know whether her husband has been charged.

Polanco’s arrest, which was preceded by the arrest of two government opponents the day before, comes in the run-up to a day of protest against the Castro government that has been called for 5 August by opposition organisations. Polanco was previously arrested by two State Security officials on 23 February 2000 after having published reports on the proceedings against Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, president of the Lawton Foundation. Prior to that, Polanco was briefly held for questioning five times in 1999.

Téllez Castro, who heads the Agencia de Prensa Libre Avileña (APLA) and Brizuela Yera, who works for the Colegio de Periodístas Independientes de Camaguey, were beaten by police on 4 March and then detained along with eight human rights activists. They were arrested on their way to visit Jesús Alvarez Castillo, correspondent of the Cuba Press agency in Ciego de Avila (central Cuba), who had been hospitalised after being beaten up the same day by police. Téllez Castro is currently held in the Canaleta prison, in Ciego de Avila. Brizuela Yera is jailed in a detention centre in the eastern province of Holguín. The two men are expected to be charged with "insulting behaviour," as well as "causing trouble in a medical facility" and "refusing to obey instructions."

On 4 March, Domínguez was arrested at his home by four State Security officials and detained initially in Havana at a centre run by the Technical Investigation Department (DTI), which is part of the interior ministry and notorious for ill-treating prisoners. The health of the journalist, who suffers from migraine and high blood pressure, deteriorated badly and since 29 March he has been held at the Grande Valle prison, in Havana. Domínguez has reportedly been charged with "disturbing public order" and "refusing to obey instructions." He is also said to have been accused of helping to organise demonstrations on 24 February to mark the death of four pilots of the Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue, who were shot down by Cuban air force planes on 26 February 1996.

Reporters Without Borders also calls again for the release of Arévalo Padrón, who was sentenced on appeal on 28 November 1997 to six years in prison for "insulting" President Castro and Vice-president Carlos Lage in an interview with a Miami radio station, in which he called them "liars" for failing to respect commitments to democracy they had signed at an Ibero-American summit. The journalist is being held in labour camp no. 16, in Cienfuegos province. His applications for release on bail have been rejected several times.

Only the government-controlled media is allowed to operate in Cuba. About 100 independent journalists rely on Cuban exile organisations in the United States to distribute their articles, mostly on Internet websites. Reporters Without Borders counted nearly 100 instances last year of pressure or intimidation aimed at journalists, including threats, physical attacks, police summonses, house arrest and pressure on families. The authorities also arrested 29 journalists. About 50 independent journalists have been forced into exile abroad since 1995.

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