American human rights attorney arrested in Cuba for defending imprisoned dissident artist is released, back in U.S.

Gorki Aguila, Luis Alberto Mariño, and Kimberley Motley in Havana.
Gorki Aguila, Luis Alberto Mariño, and Kimberley Motley in Havana.

Renowned American human rights attorney Kimberley Motley traveled to Cuba to take on the case of imprisoned dissident artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado and help to secure his release. Soon after her arrival and right before she was about to do a press conference with the international press, Cuban State Security swooped in, arrested her, and took her away for interrogation. For hours no one knew were Motley was or where she was being held. Thankfully, she was eventually released the next day and was able to board a flight and make it back home to the U.S.:

Cuban dissident musicians Gorki Aguila and Luis Alberto Mariño were with Motley when Cuban State Security agents arrived and were also arrested, although the two Cubans were released a few hours after they were detained. In an interview with Diario de Cuba, Gorki had this to say about Motley’s experience in Cuba (my translation):

“She will take with her firsthand testimony and a bitter memory experienced in the flesh of the repression and abuse in this country.”

Diario de Cuba has the report (my translation):

Kimberley Motley, interrogated at a police station, her hotel, and at the airport

American attorney Kimberley Motley, who was arrested and interrogated by Cuban authorities in Havana this Friday was supposed to have boarded a flight back to her country, said the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) according to EFE.

According to Javier El-Hage, legal director of the organization, the attorney missed her morning flight leaving from the Jose Marti Airport after she was detained again. This time it was immigration authorities who detained her and subjected her to several hours of interrogation.

Nevertheless, Motley was finally released by the officials. She was given back her passport and was able to board a flight directly back to North Carolina where she resides along with her husband and children.

According to the report by EFE, Motley voluntarily traveled to the Cuban capital on Thursday to provide pro bono legal representation to dissident graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto). Maldonado has been imprisoned since November 26th, one day after the death of Fidel Castro, for spraying graffiti on a wall in Havana with the phrase, “He’s Gone.”

El-Hage says that Motley was arrested on Friday afternoon in “a large operation” and taken to the Zanja police station in Central Havana.

Along with the attorney, dissident musicians Gorki Aguila and Luis Alberto Mariño were also arrested.

Aguila told DIARIO DE CUBA that Motley was planning to hold a press conference outside the Provincial Tribunal of Havana. He dismissed the allegation that her intention was to carry out an “act of provocation.”

She “simply wanted to inform herself,” added Aguila.

According to El-Hage, Motley said she had been treated well at the police station. The attorney was then once again interrogated after midnight at her hotel in Havana.

Motley is an expert in human rights and appeared in a documentary film about her work in Afghanistan as part of a team of international attorneys from HRF. The organization served as a “facilitator” on her mission to be “on the ground” to help the graffiti artist who she knows personally.

“We explained to her that she could be imprisoned, that it is normal over there to be charged and imprisoned for a long period of time. She was well aware of this,” said the HRF representative.

Read the entire report (in Spanish) HERE.