González Castellanos, the imprisoned correspondent for the independent news agency CubaPress in the eastern province of Holguín, has been denied medical assistance and legal benefits.
In mid-November 2000, González Castellanos, who is eligible for parole but has been denied this benefit, was told to gather his personal belongings, because he was one of 60 prisoners to be transferred to a labor camp, where conditions would be less harsh. When the day of the transfer arrived, González Castellanos was called and told that he would stay at the Holguín Provisional Prison. To protest this arbitrary treatment, the journalist refused to accept the two-month sentence reduction that prison authorities had granted him.
In a prison visit on November 18, 2000, González Castellanos’s “reeducation” officer told the journalist’s relatives that only the state security agency had jurisdiction in his case.
The journalist was arrested on October 1, 1998, for making critical statements about President Fidel Castro Ruz to state security agents who had stopped and insulted him as he was walking home from a friend’s house. González Castellanos was detained in the Holguín Provisional Prison, where he spent seven months awaiting trial. On May 6, 1999, the San Germán Municipal Court convicted him of “disrespect” and sentenced him to two years and seven months’ imprisonment.
While the sedition charges against González Castellanos did not arise directly from his journalistic work, local journalists suspect that González Castellanos was deliberately provoked by state security agents in retaliation for his reporting on the activities of political dissidents.
In July 1998, González Castellanos was contacted by a man claiming to have information for him sent by a Cuban exile in Miami. When they met, this man questioned González Castellanos about his journalistic work and told him that a Cuban exile group wanted to recruit him for subversive activities. González Castellanos declined the offer and later determined that the man with whom he had met had never been in touch with the Miami exiles that he claimed to represent. González Castellanos believed the man was a state security agent attempting to entrap him.
On June 30, 1999, González Castellanos was transferred to Holguín’s maximum-security prison, Cuba Sí, where he was routinely harassed by guards. When he complained about poor hygienic conditions, the guards threatened to suspend his visiting rights. In late 1999, local independent journalists reported that state security officers had promised to grant other inmates special privileges if they would harass González Castellanos and pass on information about the journalist.
On March 3, 2000, González Castellanos was transferred back to Holguín Provisional Prison. On June 26, he was confined in a punishment cell for 10 days, after being assaulted and punched in the head by the prison’s “reeducation” officer and a guard for protesting against the confiscation of his handwritten notes.
Upon release from the punishment cell, González Castellanos was placed in a labor unit. He had a severe cold for two months and lost considerable weight, but was denied proper medical attention. The journalist’s condition improved only after his family managed to provide him with medication.Q173