Oscar Espinosa Chepe

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Espinosa Chepe, a Havana-based independent freelance journalist, is one of 29 independent Cuban journalists who were detained in March in a massive government crackdown on the independent media and political opposition.

His one-day summary trial was held in early April behind closed doors. He was tried under Article 91 of the Penal Code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the State”; and under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the Nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” On April 7, the Havana Provincial Tribunal announced he had been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The journalist remained imprisoned in the Havana headquarters of the State Security Department until April 24, when he was sent to Guantánamo Provincial Prison in eastern Guantánamo Province, hundreds of miles from his home. In June, the People’s Supreme Tribunal, Cuba’s highest court, dismissed his appeal for annulment (recurso de casación) and upheld his conviction.

The 62-year-old journalist suffers from several severe medical conditions, including cirrhosis, hepatitis, liver failure, and high blood pressure. According to his wife, independent journalist Miriam Leiva, while in prison, Espinosa Chepe has had blood in his stools, anemia, and parasites.

Due to his liver conditions–which Leiva says had been under control before his detention and imprisonment–and other ailments that have been exacerbated in jail, the journalist has been in and out of hospitals. In July, he was transferred to Boniato Prison, where, despite his poor health, he spent eight days in solitary confinement.

On August 7, Espinosa Chepe became ill and was taken to the Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital in Havana, where he remained at year’s end.