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Cuba5 June 2003

Confirmation of heavy prison sentences against two arrested journalists

(JPEG) Reporters Without Borders deplored the Cuban supreme court’s confirmation of sentences imposed on two of the 26 independent journalists arrested at the end of March and since jailed for lengthy terms. The court upheld on 3 June a sentence of 26 years on Miguel Galván Gutiérrez (photo) and 16 years on José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández.

"We greatly regret that the Cuban government refuses to listen to international protests calling for the release of the 26 journalists and the 50 other dissidents arrested at the same time", said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard.

"We fear now that the sentences against the other imprisoned journalists will be confirmed too. The government is going down an increasingly repressive blind alley as shown by the heavy sentences, of up to 28 years in prison for simple offences of opinion."

Ménard also denounced new restrictions on the jailed journalists’ families, most of whom are only being allowed to visit them once every three months instead of every three weeks as the rules state. This is in addition to their transfer to prisons hundreds of kilometres from their homes, making visits difficult and expensive.

The Internet website cubanet.org reported on 21 May that the wife of journalist Pedro Argüelles Morán was only told after she arrived to see him at the prison in Santa Clara (west-central Cuba) that he had been sent to another, in Combinado del Este (Havana), another 270 kms away from his home in Morón. The Russian news agency Prima News reported on 3 June that journalist Adolfo Fernández Sainz and several other jailed dissidents had begun a hunger-strike to demand their right to see their families more often.

(JPEG) The conditions of detention of several of the journalists are very bad and at least five are reportedly ill. Reporters Without Borders said it was especially worried about Oscar Espinosa Chepe (photo), who has serious liver problems and internal bleeding, and called for his transfer to hospital in Havana. On 31 May, after strong international protests, he was taken from the prison in Guantanamo to a hospital in Santiago.

His wife Miriam Leiva said this was a "farce" because health care at the hospital was no better than at the prison, where officials had not even given him the medicine she had brought for him. She called for his transfer to a Havana hospital. The appeal against his 20-year sentence was heard on 4 June and judgment was reserved.

Last month, a dozen independent journalists who decided to continue their activities despite the crackdown were threatened with heavy prison sentences by security officials if they persisted.

See full details of the imprisoned Cuban journalists in our section "Cuba: the world’s biggest prison for journalists



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