Press Advisory: CFC welcomes release of prisoner of conscience Silverio Portal Contreras, but concerned for his health and other still jailed prisoners of conscience

Press Advisory

CFC welcomes release of prisoner of conscience Silverio Portal Contreras, but concerned for his health and other still jailed prisoners of conscience

December 1, 2020 John Suarez
612-367-6845

Silverio Portal Contreras, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, has been released, reported his wife Lucinda Gonzalez Gomez on December 1, 2020 at 10:40am over Facebook in a video post.

Never should have been arrested.

Never should have been arrested.

Silverio was sentenced to four years in prison for alleged crimes of “public disorder” and “contempt” after leading several public protests demanding decent housing for all Cubans. He was detained on June 20, 2016 in Havana and the court document states that “the behavior of the accused is particularly offensive because it took place in a touristic area.” The document further describes the accused as having “bad social and moral behavior” and mentions that he fails to participate in pro-government activities. According to Silverio’s wife, before his arrest he had campaigned against the collapse of dilapidated buildings in Havana. Silverio was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International on August 26, 2019. He was beaten by prison officials in mid-May 2020 and lost sight in one eye.

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Regime officials, who jailed Silverio, did not heed his warnings regarding dilapidated buildings. On January 27, 2020 three school girls died when a balcony collapsed on them in Old Havana. María Karla Fuentes and Lisnavy Valdés Rodríguez, both 12 years old, and Rocío García Nápoles, 11 years old were killed.

“We welcome Silverio’s release, but remain concerned about his health status following years of mistreatment while under custody of Cuban officials, and remember that he should have never been arrested in the first place, but his warnings on dilapidated buildings heeded,” said John Suarez, Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

Furthermore, we remain concerned and demand the release of the following prisoners of conscience that continue to be jailed in Cuba.

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Amnesty International on November 27, 2020 identified Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara as a prisoner of conscience.

“Amnesty International previously named Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a leader in the movement opposing Decree 349, a dystopian law that stands to censor artists, a prisoner of conscience in March [2020]. At the time of last night’s detention, he was carrying out a hunger strike.

According to information from the NGO Cubalex, when authorities detained Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara after the raid they refused to let him return to the movement’s headquarters, where he lives and his whereabouts” were unknown.

Since then Movimiento San Isidro activists have learned that Luis Manuel is being held against his will, and without possibility of access to a telephone at the Hospital Manuel Fajardo in Havana, Cuba, and they describe his current status as “kidnapped.”

More information on Luis Manuel and the Movimiento San Isidro are available here and here.

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The Center is extremely concerned for the safety of Yandier, and fear for his life. The Christian Democrat Organization of America is demanding the release of Yandier García Labrada. Following text taken from Race and Equality press release on November 6, 2020 regarding Yandier’s case.

Cuban activist Yandier García Labrada, a member of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL). Mr. García has been deprived of his liberty since October 6th and is being held at “El Típico” prison in Las Tunas province. In prison, Mr. García’s health has worsened considerably, partly due to a serious physical assault for which he has not received medical attention.

Yandier’s family was officially informed of his detention on October 27th, when his brother Irán Almaguer Labrada went to the Las Tunas provincial police station to request information. The official in charge of the case, who refused to give his name, revealed only that Yandier was being held in “El Típico” under the charges of “contempt” and “public disorder” and that no date had been set for his trial.

On November 3rd, Yandier’s other brother Yoanny Almaguer Labrada was finally allowed to see him and spoke with him for around 20 minutes. Yoanny reported that Yandier could not move his left arm and showed him bruises on his ribs, shoulder, and arms. He also reported that Yandier had not received any medical attention and that prison officials would not allow the family to give him the aerosol spray that he needs to control his frequent asthma attacks.

Until the meeting with Yoanny on November 3rd, Yandier had not been allowed to have either phone calls or in-person visits. The day after the meeting, Irán was detained for five hours in Buenaventura as he traveled from Manatí to San Andrés. The security official who detained Irán gave his name as Alberto and demanded that Irán “stop your opposition” if he wanted Yandier to be freed.

Facts of the case

According to information from Yandier’s brothers and MCL members, Yandier was seized around 3:00pm on Tuesday, October 6 outside of a grocery store in Manatí, where he resides. Yandier was in line to buy groceries and began to complain vocally about the market’s disorganization and poor service, leading other people to join in.

The market’s staff called the police to deal with this impromptu protest. When the police arrived, they arrested Yandier and three others, who were released later that day. Witnesses told the MCL and Yandier’s family that the arrest was “rough,” with four or five officers stuffing Yandier head-first into a police car.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet, national coordinator of the MCL, told Race and Equality that “the unjust and arbitrary incarceration of Yandier García Labrada is part of a systematic campaign of repression against members of the MCL aimed at suppressing our activism on behalf of human rights.” According to Dr. Cardet, threats and acts of harassments against MCL members are common. Race and Equality denounced such attacks in August.

“It is very concerning that Yandier’s family could not contact him or find out his status. The MCL demands the immediate liberation of Yandier García,” added Dr. Cardet.

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Josiel Guía Piloto, president of the Republican Party of Cuba, serving a five year-sentence for having criticized former President Fidel Castro on December 1, 2016. “On June 11, [2018] prisoner of conscience Josiel Guia Piloto, a member of the Republican Party of Cuba, suffered a collapsed lung after being beaten by prison guards, according to his mother. Political prisoners also reported that fellow inmates, acting on orders from or with the permission of prison authorities, threatened, beat, intimidated, and harassed them,” reported the 2019 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cuba.

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Text taken from Amnesty International

Edilberto Ronal Arzuaga Alcalá is an UNPACU activist, reportedly imprisoned for not paying a fine.According to information received by Amnesty International, Edilberto has been imprisoned since December 2018, reportedly for not paying fines related to his alleged distribution of political posters. Edilberto was most recently involved in the “Cuba Decide” Campaign and campaigned against the government’s position in the recent constitutional reform process. According to Cuban Prisoners Defenders, Edilberto was detained on 24 December 2018, when filming testimonies of people discussing the constitutional reform process in a public market, in the city of Camagüey. After being taken to prison, he was sentenced to 14 months of prison for failing to pay fines previously accumulated.On 22 April 2019 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary measures calling on Cuban authorities to respect and protect the rights to health, life and physical integrity of Edilberto.

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Keilylli de la Mora Valle, a 27 year old human rights activist and resident of Cienfuegos. She is a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and describes herself as “a free and independent Cuban who is 100% Anti-Castro.”  She is now serving an unjust 18 month prison sentence, and this is her second arbitrary detention for political reasons.  She had already served a ten month prison sentence that was politically motivated, and suffered “cruel and inhuman treatment” during  this first prison sentence according to a statement she made on June 1, 2020.  Keilylli entered prison on June 4, 2020 and managed to record conditions in the prison with a hidden camera which outraged officials and began applying punishments, including a physical beating, and  extending her prison sentence that drove her to start a hunger and thirst strike that lasted 12 days, and led to her hospitalization.

Continued ill treatment by prison officials led her to announce a second hunger and thirst strike on June 30th, and on July 2nd it was learned that prison officials had claimed that Keilylli de la Mora Valle had attempted suicide and was transferred to Gustavo Aldereguia Hospital, the psychiatric hospital in Cienfuegos. Prison conditions are so difficult for this young woman that Diario de Cuba reported on November 3, 2020 that Keilylli had again attempted to take her own life and had been returned to the psychiatric hospital.

We are deeply concerned for her continued well being and call for her immediate release, and The Center had sent an appeal in the past on her behalf.

There are many more political prisoners in Cuba, but these are cases that we view with great concern.

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