Granma propagandist turns journalist, faces espionage charges

In Cuba, it is called freedom from the press.

Via the Miami Herald:

Cuban journalist who wrote exposé of bungled aqueduct project reportedly faces espionage charges

A top Cuban journalist faces a 15-year prison sentence for spying, just two years after Raúl Castro issued an unusually public praise for his exposé of a scandalously botched public works project, according to reports.

José Antonio Torres was the correspondent in eastern Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second largest city, for the newspaper Granma, the official voice of the ruling Communist Party, until his arrest in February 2011.

Prosecutors sought the 15-year sentence on a charge of espionage during a court hearing in mid-June, according to a post Wednesday in the Spain-based blog Diario de Cuba — Cuba Diary — which first reported the Torres case in March of 2011.

Dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer said prisoners he met in April in a Santiago police station during one of his frequent detentions arrests had told him that Torres was being held in Aguadores prison on the outskirts of the city and had been charged with spying.

Torres told fellow inmates that he was innocent and remained a staunch government supporter, Ferrer said. His wife turned down offers of assistance from Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez.

Diario de Cuba noted that its unidentified sources reported Torres had sent a letter to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana “showing an interest in providing information about military objectives” and “high officials … to whom he had access.”

Other reports have indicated Torres was arrested in a corruption probe or in retaliation for his July 2010 report on a botched aqueduct construction project in Santiago. Cuba’s state-run news media, including Granma, have never reported on his arrest.

His 5,000-word report listed a string of blunders in the massive project, used strong words like “mistakes” and “bad job” and quoted Vice President Ramiro Valdés, who supervised the project, as saying that the situation was improving.

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