New York City, July 11, 2010—PEN American Center President Kwame Anthony Appiah hailed the news that journalist Normando Hernández González was freed from prison yesterday morning in Cuba, calling the release “a very hopeful sign” and “an enormous relief to PEN and to all those around the world who have followed his ordeal.”

Hernández was arrested on March 18, 2003, one of 75 writers and activists jailed in a major crackdown on dissent, and sentenced to 25 years in prison for reporting on the conditions of state-run services in Cuba and for criticizing the government’s management of issues such as tourism, agriculture, fishing, and cultural affairs. Held in deplorable prison conditions, he was hospitalized repeatedly over the past seven years. As his health declined, PEN mounted an increasingly urgent campaign on his behalf, awarding Hernández the 2007 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award and pressing the Cuban government to provide him adequate medical care and grant him a humanitarian release.

Hernández’s release yesterday is part of an announced agreement between Cuban authorities and the Catholic Church to free 52 political prisoners, all jailed since the March 2003 crackdown. He will reportedly fly to Spain with his wife and daughter on Tuesday.

“We are enormously relieved that Normando Hernandez Gonzalez is free and reunited with his family, and that he will soon find refuge and the medical treatment he so desperately needs in Spain,” Appiah said. “After a seven year ordeal that undermined his health and brought endless anguish to his family, he deserves this respite. We salute his endurance and courage, and the endurance and courage of all those who have been jailed in Cuba in violation of their right to freedom of expression. We will be working to ensure that they, too, are released.”

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit

Larry Siems, (646) 359-0594