February 23, 2011

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 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the release of journalists Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez and Iván Hernández Carrillo; however we remain concerned that they remain under restrictions as a condition of their parole.

According to our information, Maseda, founder of the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro and founder and president of the banned Partido Liberal Cubano, was released on February 12, 2011, after serving nearly eight years in prison following the March 2003 “Black Spring” government crackdown on dissidents and writers. Iván Hernández Carrillo, journalist for Agencia Patria news agency and librarian at the Juan Gualberto Gómez Library, was released from prison on parole on February 19, 2011.

Unlike the 18 other writers, independent journalists, and librarians released between July and September 2010, who were all forced to accept exile in Spain, Maseda and Hernández have been allowed to remain in Cuba under a special parole program known as “extrajudicial license,” which we understand means that their prison sentences have not been lifted. There is concern that the parole program will be used as a way to maintain control over political prisoners after their release, and Maseda has demanded a full pardon for himself and the others.

Under a deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish foreign ministry last July, all remaining dissidents in prison since March 2003 were to be freed by the end of October 2010, but this has failed to materialize. Pedro Argüelles Morán, director of the Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes, remains in prison because he reportedly refused to accept exile from Cuba as a precondition of his release.

PEN American Center is relieved that Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez and Iván Hernández Carrillo have been released from prison and have been permitted to remain in Cuba, but is especially concerned that there are still conditions tied to their parole. We believe all writers and librarians imprisoned in March 2003 have been held solely for their legitimate right to freedom of expression, in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, to which Cuba is a signatory. We therefore urge you to overturn the prison sentences of Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez and Iván Hernández Carrillo, and to release Pedro Argüelles Morán, Blas Giraldo Reyes Rodríguez, and all other journalists imprisoned since 2003, including Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández,

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee             
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Ambassador Pedro Núñez Mosquera
New York Permanent Mission to Cuba
315 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10016
Fax: (212) 779-1697

>> Back to Rapid Action 2/15/11
>> Back to Rapid Action 2/24/11