The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN welcomes the release of journalists Edel José García Díaz and Jorge Olivera Castillo on health grounds. However, PEN remains concerned that García (59) and Olivera (43) have only been freed on parole and that they could both still be returned to prison.

Edel José García Díaz, director of the news agency Centro Norte del País, was released on 2 December 2004. He had been serving a 15-year sentence in Boniato prison, Santiago de Cuba, for having violated Law 88, a wide-ranging piece of legislation that covers those who commit “acts that, in line with imperialist interests, are aimed at subverting the internal order of the Nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system. García
has had no vision in his left eye since childhood and was reported to be suffering from psychiatric and gastric problems. As a result he was transferred to the hospital at Combinado del Este prison in February this year.

Jorge Olivera Castillo, the director of Havana Press and a contributor to the De Cuba magazine, was freed on 6 December 2004 after having previously been transferred from prison to a military hospital in the capital, Havana, for medical tests. He is reportedly suffering from an intestinal ailment. Olivera had served 20 months of an 18-year sentence, also for violations of Law 88. He is an Honorary Member of the English PEN centre.

The releases bring to nine the number of journalists or librarians sentenced in the March/April 2003 clampdown to have been freed on parole. Of the overall total of 75 dissidents jailed at the time, 61 remain in prison.

International PEN welcomes the freedom granted to Edel José García Díaz and Jorge Olivera Castillo but calls upon the Cuban authorities to make their release unconditional. PEN also urges the authorities to free the 28 journalists and librarians who remain behind bars in Cuba, 26 of them since the mass arrests of March 2003.
 

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105, lsiems@pen.org