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Soldiers threaten journalist in continuing wave of repression; independent journalist arrested

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF condemns threats made against independent journalist Lucas Garve, the president of the Freedom of Expression Foundation, who was awoken in his Havana home by soldiers from a rapid intervention unit at around 10:30 p.m. (local time) on 8 August 2005 and told he would "pay dearly" if he went out the next day.

"Not satisfied with having 22 independent journalists in prison, the Cuban authorities also constantly harass those who are still free by means of threats, intimidation and summonses to report to a police station," the organisation said.

Garve decided to stay at home on 9 August and was later told soldiers were posted in the house opposite his own all day.

He was previously the target of threats after President Fidel Castro named him as a "counter-revolutionary leader," along with some 30 other independent journalists, while speaking on a national television station.

The Cubanet website also reported other, similar incidents the same day in Havana. Ángel Pablo Polanco, of the Servicio Noticuba independent news agency, was also threatened near his home. Polanco was arbitrarily detained for three days in August 2002 (see IFEX alerts of 8, 7 and 6 August 2002).

RSF has registered 10 cases of threats against independent journalists since June 2005. In many cases, the threats were made by state security agents when the journalist complied with an order to report to a police station.

Independent journalists have been particularly hit by the government crackdown of the past few weeks. Oscar Mario González was arrested on 22 July in Havana and is now awaiting trial under the draconian Law 88 (see alerts of 4 August, 26 July and 1 April 2005). Lamasiel Gutiérrez Romero was sentenced on 9 August to seven months probation on trumped-up charges of "resisting authorities" and "civil disobedience".

In a separate development, RSF condemns the 11 August arrest of physician and independent journalist Florencio Cruz Cruz, in Aguado, Cienfuegos province. Cruz is deputy editor at the independent Línea Sur Press agency. He also works for Nueva Prensa Cubana.

Cruz was arrested by Lt. Carlos Castillo Medina, a police officer identified as Junier, and two other policemen as he was going to the home of Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, the editor of Línea Sur Press.

Arévalo said the pretext for the arrest was a small sum of money in Cruz's possession, which he had received from the US-based organisation Agenda Cuba as a form of assistance after the most recent hurricane hit the island. Cruz's wife, Yamile Sousa Elizondo, told RSF that she has not seen him since his arrest.

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