March 18, 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 from prison of independent journalist Pedro Argüelles Morán.

According to our information, Argüelles, aged 63, former director of the Cooperative of Independent Avileña Journalists (CAPI) based in Ciego de Ávila, was released on March 4, 2011, and returned to his family home in central Cuba. He had served almost eight years of a 20-year sentence when he was released. We understand that Argüelles has been allowed to stay in Cuba under the same special parole program offered to journalists Iván Hernández Carrillo and Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez, who were released on February 19 and February 12, 2011, respectively. The 18 other writers, independent journalists, and librarians freed between July and September 2010, under a deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish foreign ministry, were all forced to accept exile in Spain rather than being offered this special parole.

Local human rights activists have expressed concern that the special parole program under which Argüelles, Hernández, and Maseda have been freed will be used as a way to maintain control over political prisoners after their release, and none of the freed “Black Spring” writers have had their prison sentences lifted.

Argüelles is the last of 35 writers and independent journalists arrested in the March 2003 government crackdown on dissidents to be freed, just two weeks before the eighth anniversary of the “Black Spring.” A total of 75 individuals were reportedly detained during this period of suppression of dissent, which began on March 18, 2003. All were sentenced during one-day trials held between April 3 and April 4, 2003, under laws governing the protection of the Cuban state.

PEN American Center welcomes the release from prison of Pedro Argüelles Morán and all the other writers, journalists, and librarians arrested in connection with the “Black Spring” protests. However, we remain deeply concerned that Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, director of the Havana-based independent news agency Habana Press, remains imprisoned, and we urge you to release him immediately and unconditionally. We also urge you to make the release of all those writers, reporters, and librarians arrested in connection with “Black Spring” protests unconditional, in order to end the continued suppression of free expression in Cuba, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, to which Cuba is a signatory.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

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

CC: His Excellency Jorge Bolaños
Cuban Interests Section
2630 and 2639, 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 986-7283

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