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    January 21, 2015

    Three of the released activists freed by Cuba had been recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, including the twins Bianco Vargas Martín and Diango Vargas Martín, who had been imprisoned for “public disorder” offences.
     
    In the days following the initial releases, the Cuban authorities reportedly released dozens of other political prisoners. In total, it is believed 53 were released as relations thawed between Cuba and the USA.

    What happened?

    Government repression in Cuba has long stifled freedom of expression and led to hundreds of arrests and detention. Journalists and political activists faced harassment and intimidation by security officials.

    January 08, 2015

    The release of at least nine jailed opposition activists by the Cuban authorities since last night is a positive step which should be followed by a new human rights agenda on the island, Amnesty International said.

    Cuban activists have confirmed that five political prisoners were released on Wednesday evening, and at least four more activists were released today (8 January). Among the nine men, three were previously recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

    It is believed this could be the first in a series of releases of more than 50 prisoners in Cuba as part of a deal announced last month to “normalize” relations between Cuba and the USA.

    “The release of these nine prisoners is clearly an important step towards righting past injustices in Cuba, and hopefully the first of many such releases of those jailed for politically motivated offences,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    December 17, 2014

    Today’s prisoner exchange between the USA and Cuba presents the best opportunity in more than half a century to forge an agenda for human rights change amid efforts to normalize relations between the two countries, Amnesty International said.

    Alan Gross, an alleged US aid worker imprisoned in Cuba for the past five years after being accused of spying, and the three remaining “Cuban Five” prisoners held in the USA on espionage charges since 1998, had been released and were en route to their respective home countries on Wednesday morning local time.

    “Today’s prisoner swap is a very welcome opening salvo in a long-awaited overhaul of US-Cuban relations after more than half a century of thorny relations, sanctions and mutual recriminations. Any efforts at political and diplomatic change must now go hand-in-glove with historic human rights change in Cuba,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    November 07, 2014

    The trial of three people arrested in Cuba during a government crackdown on peaceful protests, has been postponed for a fourth time in two and a half years, leaving the detainees in an unfair legal limbo, said Amnesty International today.

    Sonia Garro Alfonso, who is a member of the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) a protest group, her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González and their neighbour Eugenio Hernández Hernández have been in pre-trial detention since 18 March 2012. Their trial was finally due to start this morning but was once again postponed without explanation. No new trial date has been set.

    September 11, 2013

    Authorities in Cuba must immediately and unconditionally release a political activist imprisoned solely because of his political views, Amnesty International said as it adopted Iván Fernández Depestre a “Prisoner of Conscience”.

    The 40 year-old political activist, was arrested on 30 July in the central province of Santa Clara as he peacefully participated in a public event to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Cuban national hero Frank País.

    “Iván Fernández Depestre is being held only because he holds opinions contrary to those of the Cuban authorities. He must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Advisor for Amnesty International.

    Mr Depestre was charged with “dangerousness”, a pre-emptive measure defined as the “special proclivity of a person to commit crimes” after he was accused of “meeting with antisocial persons”. He hand no access to a lawyer during his trial and was sentenced to three years in jail on 2 August.  He is currently on hunger strike.

    August 05, 2013

    The Cuban authorities must immediately and unconditionally release five men who have been named prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

    The cases of the five men – Rafael Matos Montes de Oca, Emilio Planas Robert and the brothers Alexeis, Diango, and Vianco Vargas Martín – are indicative of the continuing repression of freedom of expression on the island, the organization said. 

    “These five cases are only the tip of the iceberg for Cuba’s repression of free speech,” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Advisor for Amnesty International.

    “The only progress made by the Cuban government has been the reform of the Migration Law earlier this year. It allowed many people including human rights defenders and government critics to travel abroad. Much more needs to be done to guarantee civil and political liberties in the country.”

    January 30, 2013

    Authorities in Cuba must immediately release Cuban journalist Calixto Martínez, currently imprisoned for reporting on issues seen by the authorities as “controversial”, said Amnesty International today as it named him a prisoner of conscience.

    Calixto Martínez, journalist with the unofficial news agency Hablemos Press, was arrested by the Cuban Revolutionary Police on 16 September 2012 near Havana airport.

    He was investigating allegations that medicine provided by the World Health Organization to fight a cholera outbreak was being kept at the airport, as the Cuban government were allegedly trying to down-play the seriousness of the outbreak.

    While at the airport he telephoned his colleagues at Hablemos Press to inform them that he had taken photographs and had interviewed airport workers. He was arrested shortly after.

    When he asked the reason for his arrest the police told him they were just following an order.

    Even though he was not formally charged or faced court, the police are reportedly accusing him with “disrespect” towards President Raúl Castro and his brother Fidel.

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