Herrera Acosta spain.jpg
A well-wisher hugs freed Cuban journalist Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta upon his arrival at a hotel in Madrid today. (AP/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

2 Cuban reporters freed, arrive in Madrid; 13 now released

August 19, 2010 3:45 PM ET

New York, August 19, 2010--Formerly imprisoned Cuban journalists Fabio Prieto Llorente and Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta arrived in Spain today, bringing to 13 the number of imprisoned reporters who were freed this year as part of an agreement between the Cuban Catholic Church and the government of President Raúl Castro.

Herrera Acosta, a Guantánamo-based correspondent for the news agency Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental, arrived in Madrid around noon with his family, according to international press reports. In a telephone interview with CPJ, the journalist said he was happy to reunite with his family, but he expressed concern about his colleagues who are still imprisoned. "I still consider myself in jail because many of my colleagues remain in Cuban prisons," Herrera Acosta said.

Prieto Llorente, a freelance reporter in the western island of Isla de la Juventud in Cuba, landed in Madrid around 3 p.m. with his family, news reports said. "I am extremely grateful to all international organizations, including CPJ, which supported me and my family during my harsh time in captivity," Prieto Llorente told CPJ.

Both Herrera Acosta and Prieto Llorente were jailed during the massive March 2003 government crackdown on political dissent and independent journalism known as the Black Spring. Seven journalists arrested during the 2003 crackdown remain in prison, as does one other journalist who was detained later, CPJ research shows.

"We are relieved that Fabio Prieto Llorente and Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta have reunited with their families after seven year of unjust imprisonment and inhumane treatment," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "Despite the recent releases, independent journalists in Cuba still face systematic harassment in reprisal for their work. We urge Cuban authorities to immediately release all reporters still in jail and guarantee freedom of expression for all Cuban citizens." 

After negotiations with Cuba's Catholic Church, Castro agreed in July to free a total of 52 dissidents arrested in the March 2003 crackdown.

Below are CPJ capsule reports Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta and Fabio Prieto Llorente from CPJ's annual census of jailed journalists, conducted in December 2009.

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental

Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

In March 2003, Herrera Acosta was arrested during the massive crackdown on Cuba's dissidents and independent press. A Cuban court sentenced him a month later to 20 years in prison under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy.

Herrera Acosta, Guantánamo correspondent for the independent news agency Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental, was being held at the eastern Holguín Provincial Prison in 2009, independent Cuban journalist Miriam Leyva told CPJ. She also said that the reporter was diagnosed with diabetes. His wife, Ileana Danger Hardy, told CPJ that he suffered from psychological ailments. According to Leyva, those problems became more acute over the course of 2009.

Fabio Prieto Llorente, freelance

Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Prieto Llorente, a freelance reporter in western Isla de la Juventud, was arrested in March 2003 during the massive crackdown on the Cuban independent press. In April of that year, a local court sentenced him to 20 years in prison for violating Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy.

Prieto Llorente was being held in solitary confinement at El Guayabo Prison in his home province, his sister, Clara Lourdes Prieto Llorente, told CPJ. In a January 7 letter to Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz, the reporter said his cell measured just 10 feet (three meters) by six and a half feet (two meters), and his meals consisted of spoiled and burned "animal products." According to his sister, the journalist has been diagnosed with allergies, emphysema, back problems, high blood pressure, and depression. He was allowed visits from two family members every two months, his sister told CPJ.

In 2009, Prieto Llorente actively reported on and protested prison conditions. His stories, published on overseas news Web sites, detailed such issues as the brutal punishment inflicted on other inmates by prison guards, and the "slave-like" work that authorities imposed on prisoners. In February, he waged a hunger strike to call attention to the situation at El Guayabo, the Miami-based news Web site Payolibre reported.

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