Second independent journalist jailed in less than a month

New York, August 25, 2005 – Cuba has jailed a second independent journalist who covered an unprecedented opposition meeting in May.

Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, was arrested on August 6, tried three days later and handed a one-year jail term without the knowledge of his family who found out about his detention only after he smuggled a note out of prison. He joins 24 independent Cuban journalists jailed for their work.

He is director of the independent news agency Havana Press, which sends reports to the Miami-based Web site Nueva Prensa Cubana.

Du Bouchet Hernández was detained on a reporting trip on August 6 in Artemisa, 38 miles (60 kilometers) from Havana, according to his wife Bárbara Pérez Araya. He was charged with “disrespecting” the local chief of police and resisting arrest. He was brought before a court in Artemisa, sentenced to one year in prison, and sent to the Melena del Sur prison, in Habana Province.

Pérez Araya told CPJ the authorities did not notify the family of his detention. Her husband managed to get word to her on August 14. She visited him in jail yesterday for two hours. Her husband said he did not have access to a lawyer before or during the trial, that the charges were fabricated, and that his trial was “a sham.”

Like independent journalist Oscar Mario González, held without trial since July 22, 2005, Du Bouchet Hernández covered the congress of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society (APSC) in May 2005. The two-day gathering, unprecedented in Cuba, brought together 200 opposition activists and guests to discuss ways to create a democracy in Cuba.

Pérez Araya said State Security agents warned Du Bouchet Hernández in May and July to stop work or face imprisonment. They ordered him to appear at a police station on the opening day of the APSC meeting but he ignored the summons and covered the conference. He was fined for his action.

Neither Pérez Araya nor her husband has received a copy of the court ruling. She said here husband has not been able to sleep well in jail. She took him sedatives and other medication but he was only allowed to receive headache pills.

“Despite repeated international calls, the Cuban government continues its crackdown against independent journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We condemn Du Bouchet Hernández’s imprisonment on trumped-up charges and urge authorities to release him immediately and to stop intimidating the independent press.”