Rights Groups Reiterate Call for Release of Cuban Prisoners
Human Rights First and PEN American Center, commemorating PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer, today called for the release of imprisoned Cuban journalist Normando Hernández González and of all others held in Cuba for their nonviolent promotion of human rights and democracy and the peaceful expression of their beliefs.
“Normando and the 24 other journalists currently being held in Cuban prisons should be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Neil Hicks, director of the Human Rights Defenders Program at Human Rights First. “They have done nothing more than peacefully express their views.”
Each year, on November 15, International PEN holds its Day of the Imprisoned Writer, during which its membership of writers raises public awareness of the plight of their colleagues worldwide, writes protest appeals, stages events and uses its collective power as writers to effect change. Five cases are selected to represent repressive attempts by governments to infringe on individual creative expression, as well as to illustrate the forms this repression takes; Hernández González is one of the five cases chosen for 2007.
Hernández González was one of 75 peaceful human rights, democracy and political activists arrested throughout Cuba in the spring of 2003, summarily tried and sentenced to jail terms of up to 28 years. Human Rights First has been campaigning for the unconditional release of all of these prisoners since their arrest; PEN American Center has been campaigning for the release of those imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression. Hernández González, then 33 years old, was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment under Article 91 of the Cuban Criminal Code for his reporting, which was critical of the government. His health has been perilous for nearly two years, and the prison conditions in which he is held do not conform to basic international standards as defined under the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the U.N. Body of Principles for the Protection of all Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.
On September 14, 2007, Hernández was moved from Kilo 7 Prison in Camagüey to the Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital in Havana. He has been diagnosed with several diseases of the digestive system, including lesions in his stomach and tumors in his gallbladder. Hernández was also diagnosed with tuberculosis in early 2007.