May 21, 2009

Raúl Castro Ruz
c/o Cuban Interests Section
2639 16th St, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 797-8521

General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra

Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
c/o Cuban Interests Section
2639 16th St, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 797-8521

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the imprisonment of reporter Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández.

According to our information, Albert Santiago Du Bouchet, director and reporter for the Havana-based independent news agency Habana Press, was arrested on April 18, 2009 while visiting relatives in Artemisa.  The circumstances behind his arrest remain unclear, but it is understood that he was taken to the local police station after a verbal exchange with a police officer. On May 12, during a summary trial in which he was denied access to a lawyer, Du Bouchet was sentenced to three years in prison, reportedly on charges of “disrespect for authority.” There are unconfirmed reports that he was also charged with “distributing enemy propaganda,” but it is unclear whether he was convicted on this charge as well. It is believed that Du Bouchet is being targeted in reprisal for his work, which includes writing on social issues.

Du Bouchet is currently being held in Melena 2 Prison in the south of Havana, and has not been permitted visits from his family or a lawyer since his arrest. He has appealed his sentence.

PEN American Center believes Alberto Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández has been detained in violation of his right to free expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Cuba is a signatory. We therefore respectfully urge you to facilitate his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of the 25 other Cuban writers, journalists and librarians imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression. We also urge you to ratify without reservations the ICCPR and introduce the necessary legislative and judicial reforms to guarantee freedom of expression.

Thank you for your attention.

Hannah Pakula           
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Program

CC: H.E. Abelardo Moreno
Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations
c/o Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations
315 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY, 10016
Fax: (212) 779-1697

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