Independent journalist detained in Havana

New York, July 26, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the detention of independent Cuban journalist Oscar Mario González, who has been held in police custody since Friday.

González, a journalist with the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, was arrested around 9 a.m. on July 22, about a block from his house, as he was going to buy bread, according to colleague Ana Leonor Díaz.

Díaz, director of Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, told CPJ that González has been held at three different police stations and is currently at a station in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana, where González lives. His wife has been allowed to bring him clothes and toiletries, but she has not been able to see him or bring him food, Díaz said.

Authorities have not said why González was detained or filed any charges against him publicly. Díaz said González might be detained in connection with a police crackdown that began Friday morning, when opposition activists planned to hold an antigovernment protest outside the French Embassy in Havana.

Several leaders of the protest group, the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba (APSC), were detained before they could join other protesters, according to international news reports and dissident groups. One of them, prominent opposition lawyer René Gómez Manzano, remains in detention. In all, at least 29 people were detained Friday; 20 have been released without charge. Nine continue in detention, including González.

In May, González covered the APSC congress for Grupo de Trabajo Decoro. The unprecedented two-day congress brought together 200 activists and guests to discuss ways to create a democratic society in Cuba. At the time, Cuban authorities detained and expelled at least five foreign journalists who had traveled to Cuba to cover the meeting.

Cuban prosecutors often fail to inform detained opposition activists about the charges they face and deny them the opportunity to review the evidence of their alleged crimes. Under the Code of Penal Procedure, detainees may be held for up to a week without a court reviewing the legality of their detention.

“Oscar Mario González is being held arbitrarily and without explanation,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We urge the Cuban government to release him immediately and to stop intimidating the independent Cuban press.”