Amnesty International on anniversary of Cuba’s Black Spring crackdown
Cuban activists talk about lack of basic freedoms, 10 years on from mass crackdown
Cuban activist José Daniel Ferrer García can hardly remember a time when the authorities were not monitoring and blocking his movements and phone calls.
Coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), an unrecognized organization that seeks democratic change by non-violent means, José Daniel has been arrested on numerous occasions as punishment for his activism.
From his early days as an activist in the 1990s he was used to being arbitrarily detained on a regular basis for short periods and was constantly threatened with prison.
So when he was told by two state security officials on 15 March 2003 that he only had a few days to stop his dissident activities or he would face a long time in prison, his reaction was to laugh.
“They had threatened me so many times, with so many years of prison that I no longer took them seriously,” he said.
Three days later, however, on 18 March 2003, in what was later dubbed the “black spring” by those affected, José Daniel was arrested as part of a group of 75 political dissidents in an unprecedented crackdown on the dissident movement on the island.
They were all detained on spurious charges related to state security and following summary trials were sentenced to long prison terms of up to 28 years.
José Daniel was sentenced to 25 years under charges of “acts against the territorial independence or integrity of the state”. During his trial, the prosecution pushed for the death penalty, the maximum sentence for that “crime”. All he had been doing was help to organize a campaign calling for a referendum on legal reform to seek greater personal, political and economic freedoms in his country.
Amnesty International declared them all “prisoners of conscience” as they had been sentenced solely for the peaceful exercise of fundamental freedoms.
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