Case History: Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco
Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco was relased from prison on 20 January 2016. The human rights defender was previously arrested in 2015, in connection with a peaceful demonstration calling for the release of political prisoners. During his time in custody, he underwent a hunger strike to protest against the lack of medical assistance in prison, which almost cost him his life, to draw attention to his health conditions and ensure his survival. He is the head of Frente de Acción Cívica “Orlando Zapata Tamayo” (Civic Action Front “Orlando Zapata Tamayo”). The organisation fights for the release of political prisoners in Cuba and reports human rights abuses committed by police forces against peaceful demonstrators in the country.
Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco is a member of Frente de Acción Cívica “Orlando Zapata Tamayo” (Civic Action Front “Orlando Zapata Tamayo” - FACOZT). FACOZT is an organisation that fights for the release of political prisoners in Cuba and reports human rights abuses committed by police forces against peaceful demonstrators in the country.
Mr Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco has been arbitrarily detained since 25 October 2015 and is now facing charges of public disorder linked to his participation in peaceful demonstrations in Cuba.
Human rights defenders Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza are also currently under detention following their arbitrary arrest on 5 November 2015 and a summary trial on 6 November 2015 in which they were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.
This is an example of several cases of arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment against defenders in Cuba in the past months. Amongst them, the case of human rights defenders Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, both of whom were arrested on 11 November 2015 and released the following day.
Human rights defender Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco has been detained since 25 October 2015 when he was arrested while on his way to participate in the demonstration “Todas Marchamos” (We all March), organised by the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) movement. He is being detained at the Fifth Unit of the Municipality Playa (Quinta Unidad del Municipio Playa), in Havana. The human rights defender is facing charges of public disorder linked to his participation in a demonstration at the premises of the Attorney General's office on 22 October 2015 demanding that all human rights defenders detained during the Pope's visit to Cuba should be released.
Human rights defenders Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza were arrested on 5 November 2015 and taken to the police station in the city of Palma Soriano. In the morning of 6 November 2015 both human rights defenders were subjected to a summary judgement and sentenced to six months imprisonment. They were both convicted of failing to pay a fine of 15,000 Cuban pesos (approximately 4,700 euros) for allegedly making anti-government graffiti in the city of Palma Soriano. The graffitti read "Queremos Cambios" (We want change), "No más hambre" (No more hunger), "No más desempleo" (no more unemployment).
On 11 November 2015, at approximately 7am, members of the regime’s special brigade broke into the home of Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” in Camaguey and arrested him along with his wife and fellow human rights defender Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera. The arrests happened one day after Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” launched the campaign “No, no and no” (“No, no y no”) asking the government to free Messrs Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza. Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera were released the following day, but their home was seized by the police and their computer was taken along with some documents.
Front Line Defenders has received recurrent reports on arbitrary detentions conducted against human rights defenders in Cuba. The human rights organisation Information Centre “Let's Talk” Press (Centro de Información Hablemos Press - CIHPRESS) has recently issued a document reporting 1,021 arbitrary and politically motivated arrests in Cuba in the month of October 2015 alone. The alarming number of arbitrary detentions in Cuba shows that human rights defenders who speak out against the regime continue to be targets of systematic repression. In this context, one of the most vulnerable group of human rights defenders are the women from Damas de Blanco since they are frequently subject to harassment during their weekly protests in Havana and other Cuban cities. This group of women has seen an increased pattern of arbitrary detention against them, where the government detain them for a few hours and re-arrest them the following week.