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Cuba must stop ‘cat-and-mouse game’ with political activists

2 August 2012

Cuba must stop 'cat-and-mouse game' with political activists

"The latest arrest and short-term detention of José Daniel Ferrer García
continues the Cuban authorities' cat-and-mouse game with political
dissidents and human rights activists"
James Burke, Campaigner on the Caribbean at Amnesty International
Thu, 02/08/2012

The Cuban authorities must end their ongoing harassment of political and
human rights activists, Amnesty International said today after a former
prisoner of conscience was released following his latest arrest and
detention in a police station for 36 hours.

José Daniel Ferrer García, coordinator of the organization Patriotic
Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), was set free on
Wednesday, two days after police arrested him in the eastern province of
Holguín.

He was not charged with any crime. His family had no idea of his
whereabouts until he was returned home by the authorities on Wednesday
afternoon.

Ferrer's latest arrest follows three days he spent in detention after
being arrested in Havana in February 2012 and a 27-day detention for
"public disorder" in Santiago de Cuba two months later. These repeated,
short detentions are in line with a pattern of harassment by the Cuban
authorities against UNPACU members and other political dissidents.

"The latest arrest and short-term detention of José Daniel Ferrer García
continues the Cuban authorities' cat-and-mouse game with political
dissidents and human rights activists," said James Burke, Campaigner on
the Caribbean at Amnesty International.

"This practice – used as a form of harassment and intimidation to
repress legitimate, peaceful activism and freedom of expression – must
come to a halt."

UNPACU was formed in mid-2011 as an umbrella group of Cuban dissident
organizations in and around the province of Santiago de Cuba who seek
democratic change by non-violent means.

Since its creation, the Cuban authorities have used arbitrary detention
and other measures to harass and intimidate its members. One member,
Wilman Villar Mendoza – whom Amnesty International named a prisoner of
conscience – died last January on a hunger strike to protest his
four-year prison sentence after a summary trial.

UNPACU coordinator Ferrer García served eight years of a 25-year jail
sentence for his political activism before being granted conditional
release in March 2011.

He was among 75 Cuban dissidents arrested during the so-called "Black
Spring" crackdown in March 2003. Amnesty International adopted all 75 as
prisoners of conscience after they were jailed for the peaceful
expression of critical opinions of the government.

Ferrer García was among those targeted in part for his participation in
the Varela Project, which called for a national referendum on democratic
reforms in Cuba.

Following his conditional release last year, police in Santiago de Cuba
re-arrested Ferrer García on 2 April 2012 along with 42 other activists
– most of them UNPACU members.

All the rest were set free, but police held Ferrer García on a "public
disorder" charge for a further 27 days, before releasing him on the
condition that he renounce his political activism.

Following his release, José Daniel Ferrer García told Amnesty
International that the authorities had arrested him to prevent him from
travelling to the capital, Havana where he had planned to hold meetings
with other government critics who are peacefully seeking greater respect
for civil and political rights in Cuba.

He said the ongoing campaign of harassment would not deter him or his
colleagues from continuing with their activism: "Our goal in Cuba is to
establish true rule of law in Cuba where freedom of expression, freedom
of association – all fundamental freedoms – are respected, and until we
do so, we will continue our peaceful struggle."

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/cuba-must-stop-cat-and-mouse-game-political-activists-2012-08-02

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