Cuban journalist Roberto Quiñones is serving a one-year sentence in a Cuban prison under correctional labor on charges of disobedience and resistance. Cuban police beat and detained Quiñones while he was covering a trial as a contributor for CubaNet. Upon his release five days later, Cuban authorities alleged his conduct during detention amounted to the mentioned crimes, for which they imposed a fine. Quiñones was sentenced to prison after refusing to pay the fine.
On April 22, 2019, around 2:00 p.m., Cuban police agents detained Quiñones, a 62-year-old lawyer and contributor to the news website CubaNet, as he was standing outside of the Guantánamo Municipal Tribunal, according to CubaNet and the Association for Press Freedom (APLP), a Cuban press freedom organization. At the time of his detention, Quiñones was covering the trial of two Cuban evangelical pastors facing charges for homeschooling their children, CubaNet reported.
While transporting him in the police car, agents beat Quiñones, injuring his mouth, tongue, and right thumb and causing an inflammation in his right ear, his wife told APLP. In an audio recording of a phone interview with a journalist from U.S. government-funded RadioMarti recorded before police took his phone away–posted on RadioMarti’s website and reviewed by CPJ–Quiñones said, "They broke my mouth, my shirt is covered in blood and I am detained here, I do not know why, because I was just here in the Municipal Tribunal. My mouth is fractured. They are about to take away my phone." CubaNet Executive Director Hugo Landa and editor Roberto Hechavarría Pilia confirmed to CPJ that the voice in the audio is that of Quiñones.
When Quiñones was released five days after his detention, Cuban authorities initiated new proceeding against him, alleging that his conduct during his detention constituted “resistance” and “disobedience,” for which they imposed a fine, according to CubaNet. Quiñones refused to pay the fine, for which he was sentenced by a municipal court in Guantánamo on August 7 to one year in prison under correctional labor. Quiñones appealed the decision, according to CubaNet. CPJ was unable to determine the amount of the fine.
Quiñones reported in CubaNet that on August 16 he was summoned to appear at the First Chamber of the Guantánamo Popular Provincial Tribunal three days later. At his appearance on August 19, he was notified that the tribunal would decide on his appeal and would issue a decision without a hearing, and rejected the evidence he presented to support his appeal, Quiñones wrote on CubaNet.
The Guantánamo Provincial Tribunal confirmed Quiñones’ conviction and prison sentence on August 27, CubaNet reported. He was detained at his home on September 11 and transferred to the Guatánamo Provincial Prison, according to CubaNet.
On November 22, CubaNet reported that Quiñones had filed a request before the Popular Supreme Tribunal to review his conviction, arguing that fundamental guarantees and formalities of the judicial process had been breached, that essential pieces of evidence had not been considered, and that “an innocent person has been found to be a perpetrator.” The request, dated October 25, was written by Quiñones in prison and filed by a colleague from CubaNet, according to the same report by CubaNet.
Quiñones suffers from the skin condition psoriasis, which has worsened in detention, CubaNet reported. According to the report, his wife was allowed to bring him skin cream to treat the skin ailment when she visited.
Quiñones has been harassed by Cuban authorities in the past. He is barred from leaving the country, and has been detained several times, including on April 18, a few days prior to his arrest, when police agents forcefully took him off of a bus on his way to the province of Cienfuegos, brought him to a police station, and interrogated him, with an officer telling him "we are taking note of your articles," according to CubaNet and APLP.
CPJ was unable to locate contact information for the Guantánamo Provincial Prison, the National Revolutionary Police headquarters, or the police station in Guantánamo.