CubaBrief: Son of independent journalist, Roberto de Jesús Quiñones, protests for his father’s freedom at Cuban Embassy

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Independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones faces one year in prison.

Today at the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC a son demanded his father’s freedom. Roberto de Jesús Quiñones faces a one year prison sentence for exercising his fundamental rights. He is an independent journalist, attorney, Catholic lay person, and family man. His son, Roberto José Quiñones Castro, is a university student in Virginia who is working his way through school.

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Picket today at the Cuban embassy in Washington DC with Roberto José Quiñones and local activists

Last week on August 7th Roberto de Jesus Quiñones was sentenced to a year in prison in a rigged trial. Today his son brought a letter to the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC calling for his dad’s freedom.

His father was unjustly imprisoned for five years for being an independent attorney in Cuba in 1998. No longer able to practice as a lawyer upon his release, he became an independent journalist.

On April 22, 2019 Roberto de Jesús Quiñones was beaten up for covering the trial of a religious couple sentenced to prison for homeschooling their kids.

Roberto José Quiñones Castro with letter in hand protests father’s prison sentence

The Cuban embassy did not respond to the petitions of this Cuban citizen. Since they would not accept the letter Roberto José read it aloud and in it he outlined the real reason for his father’s political persecution:

“The rigged trial held against my father for his work as a journalist, independent lawyer, and Catholic activist in the Family and Penitentiary Ministry of the Guantánamo-Baracoa Diocese, was actually a reprimand for his dignified work in general, and especially for his accompaniment to the evangelical pastors Adya Expósito and Ramón Rigal, also tried and convicted in a rigged manner on April 22 in that same Court; and also when my father was beaten and arbitrarily detained.”

When he concluded reading the letter, all present chanted: Free Roberto Jesús Quiñones!

Following the protest Roberto José Quiñones Castro gave a short interview in English outlining the circumstances of his father’s case and how his dad is doing presently.

Committee to Protect Journalists, August 8, 2019

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Cuba sentences journalist Roberto Quiñones to one-year prison term

Miami, August 8, 2019–A municipal court of the Cuban city of Guantánamo yesterday sentenced Roberto Jesús Quiñones, a contributor to the news website CubaNet, to one year in prison on charges of “resistance” and “disobedience,” according to advocacy group Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and of the Press and media reports.

On April 22, Cuban police beat and detained Quiñones while he was covering a trial for CubaNet, as documented by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Upon his release five days later, 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, and his sentence yesterday was the result of that refusal, CubaNet reported.

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Roberto Quiñones was the victim of a physical assault on April 22, 2019

“The fact that Roberto Quiñones is sentenced to prison for failing to pay a fine, while the police agents who beat and detained him for days receive no punishment, is outrageous,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney in New York. “If authorities in Cuba want to convey an image of progress and openness to the international community, mistreating, jailing, and fining a journalist sends the wrong message.”

Quiñones plans to appeal the decision prior to the deadline of August 12, and was permitted to remain at his home in the interim; however, he is prohibited from leaving the province of Guantánamo, according to CubaNet.

Man reads Cuban newspaper in Havana. Cuba sentences journalist Roberto Quiñones to one-year prison term. (AFP/Yamil Lage)