CubaBrief: Report and call to action on the show trial of Cuban dissidents José Daniel Ferrer García, Fernando González Vailant, José Pupo Chaveco & Roilán Zárraga

On Wednesday, February 26, 2020, according to press accounts, José Daniel Ferrer Garcíaalong with fellow dissidents Fernando González Vailant, José Pupo Chaveco and Roilán Zárraga were subjected to the start of a political show trial by the Castro dictatorship that has been slandering and libeling them over social media for months.

The judiciary in Cuba is not independent, the process does not accord with international standards, and a fair trial is not expected. Political police surrounded the trial location to bar those sympathetic to the UNPACU activists from attending. Before the end of the trial, Castro’s Ministry of Justice announced José Daniel’s guilt over Twitter. European Union diplomats confirmed to Cubanet that their requests to attend the trial of the dissidents was denied by the regime.

Jose Daniel  Ferrer García was arrested on October 1, 2019 along with the other dissidents. Below is the latest Urgent Action from Amnesty International expressing their well founded concern that the trial is unfair. This is followed by a Reuters report by Sarah Marsh that lays out an analysis of the issues surrounding the case, and the international context. Finally, video footage of a EPlenary session in the European Parliament on Ferrer García’s plight is embedded at the end of the CubaBrief.

Amnesty International, February 25, 2020

Third UA: 134/19 AMR 25/1869/2020 Cuba Date: 25 February 2020



 José Daniel Ferrer García, Cuban opposition leader and former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, has been in detention since October 1, 2019. According to his family, his trial is scheduled for February 26, 2020, however, his family was only informed of this on February 20, 2020. His family also reports that two defense witnesses were allegedly harassed by security agents, days before the trial. Amnesty International has documented for decades government control over the judiciary. Mass mobilization is needed to ensure that the Cuban authorities allow independent monitoring of his trial to ensure that it is fair.

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 Miguel Díaz-Canel

President of the Republic of Cuba

Hidalgo Esq. 6, Plaza de La Revolución,

CP 10400, La Habana, Cuba


Dear president Díaz-Canel,

I write to you to express my deep concern regarding the forthcoming trial of Mr. José Daniel Ferrer García, leader of the unofficial political opposition group “Patriotic Union of Cuba” (Unión Patriótica de Cuba – UNPACU), detained without charges and with limited access to the outside world and his family since 1 October 2019. 

Recent reports suggest he is scheduled for trial on February 26, 2020. According to sources, defense witnesses have allegedly been harassed by the authorities, days before the start of the trial.                                                                  

Since organizations as Amnesty International have documented for decades how the judiciary and lawyers are tightly controlled by the Executive in Cuba and considering that José Daniel Ferrer García is one of the most critical voices in the country, I am concerned that he is at risk of an unfair trial. I therefore demand that your administration: 

1. Ensures José Daniel Ferrer García has a fair and public trial at which he has all the guarantees necessary for his defense.

2. Allows Amnesty International, as well as international mechanisms, to monitor in situ the trial of José Daniel Ferrer García.

3. Ensure that José Daniel Ferrer García, his family and members of UNPACU are free of reprisals or harassment for peacefully exercising their human rights.

Yours sincerely,


According to information available to Amnesty International, José Daniel Ferrer García, leader of the unofficial political opposition group “Patriotic Union of Cuba” (Unión Patriótica de Cuba – UNPACU), was detained by authorities on 1 October 2019 and held incommunicado for at least 72 hours. José Daniel Ferrer García is one of the most critical voices in the Caribbean state.

According to his wife, on the morning of 1 October 2019, law enforcement officials detained José Daniel Ferrer García in his house in Santiago de Cuba. Under international human rights standards, anyone who is arrested or detained must be informed of the reasons why they are being deprived of their liberty at the time of their arrest. International standards also require that individuals are brought before a judge promptly after arrest or detention.

However, based on the information available to Amnesty International, at the time of his detention, the authorities had not formally informed José Daniel Ferrer García of the grounds for his detention nor had they brought him before a court.

According to his family, it was not until November 2019, more than 30 days after his detention, that they received a document, apparently issued by the Provincial Prosecutor of Santiago de Cuba, dated 7 October 2019, stating that José Daniel Ferrer García has been charged with the offence of “injuries” (lesiones) and placed in preventive detention as a  precautionary measure. As such, his detention may be arbitrary.

Furthermore, according to his wife, authorities did not provide José Daniel Ferrer García with access to his family or a phone call until 72 hours after his detention. People held in custody are entitled to notify a third person that they have been arrested or detained and where they are held. Detention without access to the outside world – incommunicado detention – facilitates torture or other ill-treatment and enforced disappearance.

In addition to this, in early November 2019, Amnesty International received reports from Cuban Prisoners Defenders that he may have been ill-treated while in detention. Although we are not able to verify these allegations – as no independent human rights organizations have access to Cuban prisons, and the judiciary and lawyers are tightly controlled by the Executive in Cuba – the reports are alarming.

Under international law standards, the prohibition of torture is binding to all States, whether they are Parties to treaties that expressly include this prohibition. Therefore, States are obliged to prevent torture and ill-treatment, to promptly investigate any allegations of torture and ill-treatment with impartiality, and to bring charges against those suspected of being responsible.

After receiving reports that José Daniel Ferrer García was pending of trial, on 22 November 2019, Amnesty International sent an open letter to the president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, reiterating our request to visit Cuba and monitor in situ his forthcoming trial. The Cuban government has not replied to our request yet.

According to his family, José Daniel Ferrer García is scheduled for trial on February 26, 2020 in the morning. In addition, according to family members of José Daniel Ferrer García and Cuban Prisoners Defenders, two defense witnesses have been harassed by the authorities a few days before the start of the trial, allegedly being threatened with criminal charges if they testify in favour of José Daniel Ferrer García. 

Relevant links:

 – Open letter to president Miguel Díaz-Canel of Cuba, asking for access to the country to monitor the trial of José Daniel Ferrer García:

– Our statement on José Daniel Ferrer García’s previous detention in 2018, when he was held incommunicado for 10 days.

– Amnesty’s 2019 6 prisoners of conscience in Cuba, including activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba – UNPACU), the organization José Daniel Ferrer García leads, as well as independent journalist Roberto Quiñones Haces, named in late Aug-early Sept 2019.

– Brief analysis of the current state of human rights in Cuba



Please check with the Amnesty office in your country if you wish to send appeals after the deadline.

NAME AND PREFFERED PRONOUN: José Daniel Ferrer García (he)



Reuters, February 26, 2020

Cuba puts leading dissident on trial, his supporters say

By Sarah Marsh

Jose Daniel Ferrer, who leads the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the country's largest dissident group, holds up a t-shirt with the writing "God, Fatherland, Freedom" in Palmarito de Cauto, Cuba, March 25, 2012. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo/File Photo/Fi…

Jose Daniel Ferrer, who leads the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the country’s largest dissident group, holds up a t-shirt with the writing “God, Fatherland, Freedom” in Palmarito de Cauto, Cuba, March 25, 2012. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo/File Photo/File Photo

HAVANA (Reuters) – One of Communist-run Cuba’s leading dissidents, Jose Daniel Ferrer, was due to go on trial on Wednesday on charges of abducting and assaulting a man, his supporters said, in a controversial case that is being closely watched worldwide.

The Cuban government has not confirmed that Ferrer was going on trial, but it has confirmed that he was arrested and is in jail. European officials, Amnesty International and the U.S. Embassy in Havana have said they will be watching the trial.

Ferrer, 49, is the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), one of the country’s largest and most active opposition groups. The government calls him a U.S.-financed counterrevolutionary but said he was not jailed for his political views. It accused him instead of being a violent common criminal who kidnapped a man and caused him serious injuries last September.

Supporters of Ferrer, who was arrested last Oct. 1, say the charges are false and merely an attempt to silence a vocal critic. They say the trial – which foreign media have not been invited to cover – is a sham.

The case has garnered international attention, with global rights organizations, the European Parliament and the U.S. government calling for Ferrer’s release.

“It cannot be a crime to criticize policies that have set Cuba’s development tumbling backwards for the past 61 years,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote in an open letter to his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez on Monday.

Cuban official media on Wednesday did not mention the trial, which Ferrer’s supporters say is taking place in his hometown Santiago de Cuba, around 500 miles east of Havana.

The lawyer assigned to the activist by the state informed Ferrer’s wife Nelva Ortega late on Tuesday that the trial would start on Wednesday at 0830, according to Ferrer’s sister Ana Belkis Ferrer. Ortega could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ferrer’s sister, who lives in the United States, told Reuters she had been keeping in touch with Ortega and UNPACU members by phone, but their lines appeared to have been cut on Wednesday.

“Very early in the morning, they told me the courthouse had been besieged by security agents,” she said.

Ferrer was one of 75 dissidents arrested in 2003 during a nationwide crackdown known as the Black Spring. He was released on parole in 2011 and soon after formed UNPACU.

In recent years, it had become unusual for the authorities to arrest a prominent dissident figure for more than a week, although they continued to regularly detain rights activists for a few hours or days.

Ferrer’s case underscores an increase in repression of late, government critics say, likely related to increased U.S. hostility under President Donald Trump and deepening of Cuba’s economic problems.

Cuba and its arch-nemesis the United States had undergone a detente in 2014-2016 during the administration former U.S. President Barack Obama.


#EPlenary session (28/11/19) – Cuba, the case of José Daniel Ferrer

#EPlenary session Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Cuba, the case of José Daniel Ferrer