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Spring just as sombre for independent press four years after "Black Spring" crackdown

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is an abbreviated version of a 15 March 2007 RSF alert:

[. . .] Whether or not they are imprisoned, Cuba's independent journalists have been having a particularly trying March in 2007. Twenty of them, who have been held ever since the March 2003 "Black Spring" and who are serving jail terms ranging from 14 to 27 years, continue to be mistreated by their guards and their health has suffered.

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta of the Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental (APLO), a small independent news agency, is regularly beaten by the guards at Kilo 8 prison in the central city of Camagüey. Along with 17 other detainees, he began a hunger strike on 7 March in protest against prison conditions and to draw attention to his state of health, and to that of two of his colleagues, Alfredo Manuel Pulido López of the El Mayor news agency and Normando Hernández González, the head of the Colegio de Periodistas Independientes de Camagüey (CPIC). Hernández, who is in Camagüey's Kilo 7 prison, has tuberculosis, but is not receiving the necessary treatment. He has been refusing to take food since 4 March.

Laura Pollán Toledo complained to the Interior Ministry on 7 March about the way her 64-year-old husband, Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez, the co-founder of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency, was transferred from his prison in the western town of Agüica to a hospital where he was to be operated. Although extremely weak, he was left in a punishment cell for three hours and was then shackled for the transfer. The order for this to be done was given by Capt. Emilio Cruz Rodríguez, who was accused of "sadism" by Pollán.

Ricardo González Alfonso, the editor of the magazine "De Cuba" and RSF's Cuba correspondent, is still in the recovery ward of the military hospital at Havana's Combinado del Este prison, after undergoing three operations in December 2005. He is serving a 20-year sentence, which he received in 2003.

Ramón Velázquez Toranso of the Libertad news agency, who has been detained since 23 January 2007, was transferred to a forced-labour camp in the eastern province of Las Tunas on 3 March. When his wife and daughter asked why he had been transferred, they were told it was "on the orders of State Security." He is serving a three-year prison sentence for being a "pre-criminal social danger."

Ahmed Rodríguez Albacia of the Jóvenes sin Censura news agency was arrested by State Security on 2 March as he was going with some other young people to an exhibition in Havana. Officials threatened him with imprisonment before letting him go. He was held for 24 hours in September 2006, and was detained again from 4 to 12 December at State Security headquarters.

Cubanacán Press editor Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, the RSF - Fondation de France Cyber-Freedom laureate in 2006, was assaulted on 2 March in Santa Clara by State Security officials led by Lt. Yuniel Monteagudo Reina and four members of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution. He was briefly held in a police station after the attack, which left him with bruises to the head and face.

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