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France - Cuba17 October 2003

Employee of Cuban embassy in Paris was armed when facing Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders announced today that it is supporting a complaint filed on 14 October by news photographer Ricardo Vega against an unidentified employee of the Cuban embassy. The complaint alleges "threat with a firearm" and "complicity" in the use of violence by embassy staff to break up a protest outside the embassy by Reporters Without Borders activists on 24 April.

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Vega took this step after discovering that the employee can be seen loading a revolver outside the embassy perimeter in the video that Vega recorded during the incident. Vega was badly beaten in the face by a member of the embassy in the course of the incident, and he was re-examining the videotape in an attempt to identify his assailant when he spotted the armed employee.

He previously registered a complaint at the headquarters of the investigative police in Paris alleging "deliberate violence resulting in eight days of disability." He included this accusation in the new complaint he filed on 14 October with a senior investigating judge.

"Not only did members of the embassy come out with iron bars to hit us, but one of them was carrying a firearm, which he loaded while outside the embassy," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said today. "This new element is extremely serious - it is unacceptable that persons linked to a foreign embassy commit such offences on French territory," he added.

In the 24 April protest, some 15 Reporters Without Borders activists together with a number of leading literary and artistic figures went to the Cuban embassy in Paris to hand in a letter to the ambassador calling for the release of 26 journalists who had been arrested three weeks earlier and sentenced to up to 27 years in prison.

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When the ambassador refused to receive the letter, the activists put chains around the embassy’s entrance in a symbolic protest, and handcuffed themselves to its railing together with the personalities present. Members of the embassy came out and punched and beat them with iron bars. The ambassador himself, Eumelio Caballero Rodríguez, accompanied his employees, giving them instructions.

Several journalists present were also hit, including Vega, a photographer with the French daily 20 Minutes, and a cameraman with the Spanish television station TVE. Vega’s lawyer, Serge Lewisch, said doctors have told him that some of the symptoms resulting from the blows he received will never go away, that he will have to receive constant medical follow-up care.

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Employé de l’ambassade de Cuba armé

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Employé de l’ambassade de Cuba armé


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