CPJ condemns trials of independent journalists

New York, April 4, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the trials of 28 independent Cuban journalists who have been detained since a crackdown began on March 18. The hearings began yesterday and continue today.

“We are appalled and outraged by the arrests of our colleagues,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. ” Given Cuba’s repressive legislation and compliant judiciary, we are extremely concerned that they could receive lengthy prison sentences, including life terms.”

The first court hearings were held yesterday behind closed doors, but CPJ has not been able to confirm who was tried. However, the trials of journalists Raúl Rivero and Ricardo González Alfonso were held today from 8:30 a.m. to 3:40 p.m., a relative of González Alfonso told CPJ. Their sentences could be announced as early as Tuesday. According to case documents given to CPJ, the two journalists are being accused of, among other charges, creating the journalists’ organization Sociedad de Periodistas Manuel Márquez Sterling and its “subversive” magazine, De Cuba.

Rivero and González Alfonso, along with the other journalists, will be tried under Article 91 of the Penal Code, which imposes 10- to 20-year prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the State.” Prosecutors are seeking 20 years’ imprisonment for Rivero and life imprisonment for González Alfonso. Under the Cuban Penal Code, a life sentence can be imposed as an alternative to the death penalty.

In addition to being charged under Article 91, the journalists will be prosecuted for violating Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes 20 years in prison for anyone convicted of “supporting, facilitating or collaborating with the objectives of the Helms-Burton Law [legislation that tightened the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba], the embargo, and the economic war against our people, which are aimed at ruining internal order, destabilizing the country and liquidating the socialist state and Cuba’s independence.”

The detentions of journalists and political dissidents, who are often accused of being “counterrevolutionaries” at the service of the United States, began on March 18 and continued for three days. Police raided and searched the journalists’ homes, confiscating books, typewriters, research materials, cameras, computers, printers, and fax machines. The journalists are currently imprisoned in several jails administered by the State Security Department.

According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a dissident organization, prosecutors are requesting the following sentences for the journalists:

Ricardo González Alfonso, Víctor Rolando Arroyo, Miguel Galván Gutiérrez

Other sentences:
Normando Hernández González (30 years), Iván Hernández Carrillo (30 years), Raúl Rivero (20 years), Oscar Espinoza Chepe (20 years), Julio César Gálvez (18 years), Edel José García (16 years), Adolfo Fernández Saínz (15 years), José Ubaldo Izquierdo (20 years), Jorge Olivera Castillo (15 years), Omar Rodríguez Saludes (15 to 20 years), Manuel Vázquez Portal (18 years), Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez (20 years), Mijaíl Barzaga Lugo (15 years), Carmelo Díaz Fernández (15 to 25 years), Léster Luis González Pentón (20 years), Omar Ruiz Hernández (18 years), Pedro Argüelles Morán (15 to 25 years), Pablo Pacheco Ávila (22 years), Alejandro González Raga (18 years), Alfredo Pulido López (15 years), Mario Enrique Mayo (20 years), José Luis García Paneque (20 years), José Gabriel Ramón Castillo (25 years), Juan Carlos Herrera (15 to 25 years), Fabio Prieto Llorente (15 years).