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Cuban reporter freed, flown to Madrid; 11 now released

New York, July 23, 2010—Reporter José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández was released from a Cuban jail and arrived today in Madrid, becoming the 11th  independent journalist to be freed by the Havana government this month.

“My colleagues and I warmly hugged each other upon arrival, sharing our happiness for regaining freedom and our sorrow for leaving Cuba,” Izquierdo Hernández told CPJ in a telephone interview. “My dream of seeing my country enjoying freedom of expression, as well as other rights, has not yet come true. As a journalist, it’s been very painful to experience the lack of that freedom.”

Izquierdo Hernández, who was serving a 16-year prison term imposed in 2003, landed with his family around 1:30 p.m. local time on an Iberia flight, the journalist said. He said he will move next week to Chile, where the government offered him political asylum. “I am planning to take up my journalism career once I arrive to my new destination,” Izquierdo Hernández said.

After talks with Cuba’s Catholic Church, the government of President Raúl Castro agreed this month to free a total of 52 dissidents arrested in the March 2003 government crackdown on political dissent and independent journalism known as the Black Spring. Nine journalists arrested during the 2003 crackdown remain in prison, as does one other who was jailed later, according to CPJ research.

The government has not disclosed its plans to release the other jailed journalists and dissidents.

Below is a CPJ capsule report on Izquierdo Hernández from CPJ’s annual census of jailed journalists, conducted in December 2009.

José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, Grupo de Trabajo Decoro
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Izquierdo Hernández, a reporter in western Havana for the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, was sentenced in April 2003 to 16 years in prison for acting “against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state” under Article 91 of the penal code. Following an appeal the next month, the People’s Supreme Tribunal Court upheld his conviction. In 2009, he was being held at the Guanajay Prison in his home province.

 

Izquierdo Hernández was diagnosed with severe depression, digestive ailments, circulatory problems, emphysema, and asthma, according to Laura Pollán Toledo, wife of fellow imprisoned journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez.

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