From Human Rights First:
What’s At Stake?
Cuban Human Rights Lawyer Threatened With Jail
Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva is a human rights lawyer and President of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, a human rights monitoring group that exposes human rights violations by the government and reports on attacks against peaceful activists and independent journalists. Gonzalez Leiva also established and heads the Independent Fraternity for the Blind in Cuba, which advocates for the rights of the physically disabled. As a staunch advocate for freedom of expression, he has also created several independent press agencies and founded various independent libraries in Cuba.
Gonzalez Leiva frequently speaks out on behalf of other activists and journalists who have come under threat. In particular, he has called international attention to the situation of political prisoners in Cuba, including those imprisoned in the spring of 2003, and has denounced the substandard conditions and treatment the prisoners have received.
In March 2002, Gonzalez Leiva was arrested in Ciego de Avila, along with seven other activists and journalists. They were at a hospital, visiting a colleague who had been beaten by state security agents and police when he tried to attend a monthly meeting of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights. During their visit, Gonzalez Leiva and several others prayed for their colleague and shouted “Long live human rights.” When the hospital staff asked them to stop, they immediately resumed their quiet vigil. Soon after, state security police arrived and dragged the activists out of the hospital and arrested them. Gonzalez Leiva was apparently beaten during this incident and required four stitches in a wound on his forehead.
After 26 months in pre-trial detention, during which he was reportedly held in substandard conditions, Gonzalez Leiva and nine other activists were put on trial. In April 2004 Gonzalez Leiva was sentenced to four years of house arrest on charges of disrespect for authority, public disorder, disobedience, and resisting arrest.
Since then, Gonzalez Leiva and his family have been subject to harassment, intimidation, and violence on the part of government officials and mobs of civilians (who are widely believed to be organized by the government) who have repeatedly surrounded his home for hours at a time, shouting threats and banging on windows.
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