In late 2012, a court sentenced Santiesteban, a Cuban writer and blogger, to five years in jail on domestic violence and trespassing charges brought by his former wife, according to news reports. He denied the charges. Santiesteban’s conviction was upheld on appeal on January 28, 2013. On February 28, 2013, he was taken into custody.
Santiesteban, an award-winning author, told CPJ before his imprisonment that the charges were fabricated and that he believed the government had pursued the case in reprisal for the writing on his blog.
In 2008, Santiesteban started his own blog, Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted), on which he repeatedly criticized the Castro government. He said that although he had previously won accolades from the government, after he began to write on his blog, officials forbade him from traveling for cultural events and participating in official occasions. In the years between his blog being started and the charges being filed against him, Santiesteban said he suffered a campaign of harassment-attacks on the street by men he suspected of being undercover agents, being branded an “enemy of the revolution” by a government television program, and pressure from officials to change the tone of his writing, according to a chronology of his case posted on the blog.
Weeks before Santiesteban’s imprisonment, Amelia Rodríguez Cala, his lawyer at the time, appealed his conviction, citing irregularities in the case, including the use of false testimony, inconsistencies between witness testimony and authorities’ reports on the case, and the refusal to allow testimony from witnesses on behalf of the defense, according to legal documents posted on the blog. As part of the appeal, the defense team presented a video in which a man who had claimed to witness Santiesteban attacking his wife appears to recant his testimony.
In its 2013 census, CPJ could not find sufficient evidence to confirm a link between the author’s imprisonment and his writing, but in July 2014, Santiesteban’s 16-year-old son, Eduardo Ángel Santiesteban, said in an interview with the Miami-based TV Martí that he had been manipulated and pressured by Cuban authorities to testify against his father. He denied having witnessed any assault on his mother. Santiesteban’s wife has not spoken publicly about the case but has stood by the charges.
Prominent Cuban independent journalist Miriam Celaya told CPJ in 2014 that authorities “didn’t present evidence to confirm the crime and they didn’t follow due process. I think the prosecution has been in reprisal for his criticism of the Cuban government. Santiesteban frequently criticized them on his blog, and that evidently bothered them. The prosecution was irregular, and there are many of us who believe it was retribution for his critical reporting.”
The writer’s friend, Elisa Tabakman, has maintained the blog during Santiesteban’s imprisonment. Santiesteban has continued to write stories for his blog from prison.