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International PEN calls for release of Cuban prisoners


It’s Banned Books Week, and a good time to think about countries where people are sent to jail for decades for owning and sharing books their countries disapprove of. It’s also a good time to remember that some organizations are willing to take strong stands on these issues–on behalf of people who have truly gone to bat on the issue of free speech.

Below is a resolution adopted this month by International PEN, the worldwide organization of authors and writers. This organization’s support for the independent librarians has been consistent and encouraging. The cases of several of the librarians were included in International PEN’s recent summer letter writing campaign focused on Cuba.


Resolution on Cuba Passed at 70th International Congress

The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 70th International Congress in Tromso, Norway, 6th to 12th September 2004,

ALARMED by the repression undertaken by the Cuban government since March 2003 against 34 writers, independent journalists and librarians on whom prison sentences of up to 27 years have been imposed. The majority were tried under Law 88 and Article 91 of the Penal Code. Law 88, introduced in 1999, is used as a means for sending writers and journalists to prison. It allows for prison sentences of up to twenty years. Article 91 deals with charges of acting against “the independence of the territorial integrity of the state,” the maximum penalty for which is death.

Among the imprisoned are:

Raul Rivero Castaneda: poet, director of CubaPress, co-founder of Manual Marquez Sterling Journalists Society, and librarian – sentenced to 20 years;

Ricardo Severino Gonzalez Alfonso: short story writer, president of the Manuel Marquez Sterling Journalists Society, director of De Cuba magazine and librarian – sentenced to 20 years….

APPALLED by the lack of adequate medical attention being received by several of the detainees and the fact that many prisoners are detained in towns far from their homes and families thereby limiting their visits.

DEEPLY CONCERNED about the adoption of the new Information Society Law which further restricts the ability of Cuban citizens to access the Internet;

WELCOMING the provisional release… [of several prisoners, including] Roberto de Miranda, librarian;

STRESSING that, while the Cuban government cites American policies towards it when discussing the rights situation in Cuba, it is the unique and singular responsibility of the Cuban government to preserve and protect the rights of its citizens;

URGES the Cuban government to release unconditionally the 30 remaining journalists, writers and librarians, imprisoned after trials that were neither fair nor open for exercising their right to freedom of expression;

CALL UPON the Cuban government to strike Law 88, Articles 91, 144 and 200-1 from the Cuban Penal Code and the newly adopted Information Society Law, and to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantees the right to freedom of expression and information.

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