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Cuban journalist begins serving year-long prison sentence after being convicted of resistance and disobedience

Cuban journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces was taken to prison on Sept. 11, just over a month after being convicted of the crimes of resistance and disobedience.

Quiñones, who writes for the site CubaNet and is also a lawyer, was sentenced on Aug. 7 to a year in prison in a trial held at the Guantánamo Municipal Court in Cuba, CubaNet reported.



Robert de Jesús Quiñones Haces (Foto: CubaNet)


The journalist was arrested by agents of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR for its initials in Spanish) on April 22 when attempting to cover a trial, as reported by Article 19 of Mexico and other organizations in a joint note. He was detained for five days and was physically assaulted during that time, the organization said.

The Cuban prosecutor's office claims that Quiñones resisted arrest and imposed a fine on him to close the case against him, but the journalist declined to pay because he said he was innocent, reported.

After being convicted, he appealed the sentence, but the court notified him on Aug. 20 that it would not hold a new trial, as is usually the case with an appeal, according to a statement by the organizations. Seven days later, the court upheld the sentence against the journalist and ordered it to be executed on Sept. 5.

The journalist would have to report to the Guantánamo provincial prison on that date, but did not do so because he did not consider himself guilty. “I am not going to present myself voluntarily in the provincial prison. Since the president of the court that sanctioned me and the judges of the provincial court who made the other mounting of a staging about an alleged act of justice, say that I am a dangerous citizen, I have thought that then it is best to wait for them to come to detain me in my own house,” Quiñones told CubaNet.

According to what the journalist's wife Ana Rosa Castro, told the website, this is what happened: PNR agents went to pick him up at home on the afternoon of the 11th and took him to prison.

Roberto was already prepared. He had his things collected, so they didn’t delay in taking him. They told him that he would be entitled to a phone call, so he would give me details of his exact location. Then they informed me that they were taking him to the provincial prison.”

Article 19 of Mexico and other press freedom organizations plus Cuban media and journalists signed a note to the Cuban authorities condemning the imprisonment of Quiñones and demanding his immediate release, in addition to the adoption of measures to guarantee freedoms of the press, of thought and of expression on the island.

It is important to highlight that during the years that Roberto de Jesús Quiñones has dedicated himself to doing independent journalism, he has suffered various acts of intimidation, harassment, arbitrary detention, illegal deprivation of liberty, search of his home, among other human rights violations. This situation is not exclusive to this case, but it represents a reality faced by independent journalists, human rights defenders and those who fight to defend their human rights in Cuba,” the note said.

Amnesty International also wrote a letter and addressed it to Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel. The organization condemned the arrest of Cañones and said he is a "prisoner of conscience" and should be released immediately and unconditionally.

On September 10, the day before the journalist began serving his prison sentence, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published a report that ranked Cuba as the tenth country in the world with the highest levels of censorship, citing the case of Quiñones as a “low point” in the island's history. Cuba was the only Latin American country among the 10 most censored countries.


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