Thursday, July 22, 2010

More on the prisoner releases

  • AP: Three more dissidents, released from prison, arrived in Spain today. That makes 15.

  • AFP: The Cuban government’s first official statement on the prisoner releases came from legislative chief Ricardo Alarcon, now traveling in Europe, and he seems to affirm that those who say they want to stay in Cuba will indeed be released: “The agreement says that they could travel abroad…but in Cuba there are people who have been freed from prison several years ago and who stayed in their homes. As in this case,” he says.

  • Juan Tamayo of the Miami Herald examines political prisoner numbers, now that there is word that more than 52 could be released. The frequently cited list of 167 compiled by Elizardo Sanchez’s organization is often described as a list of political prisoners, but its title says it is composed of those tried or sentenced for “political or political-social motives,” and includes some convicted of crimes such as terrorism, as the article mentions.

  • AP: U.S. consular officials in Havana are explaining the procedures and timelines for immigration and asylum applications to the families of political prisoners. Bottom line: if their wish is to settle in the United States, they should stay in Cuba and apply in Cuba rather than go to Spain where they would have to apply as immigrants, not refugees, and things will take much longer.
  • Spain’s foreign minister got a little carried away predicting that the U.S. embargo’s days are numbered because of the prisoner releases.

  • BBC: The first group to arrive in Spain is opposed to EU repeal of its “common position.”

  • El Universal: Arturo PĂ©rez de Alejo, a dissident released from jail and now in Spain with his wife, daughter, and four other relatives, says he is in “forced exile.” He wouldn’t speculate about the future of the U.S. embargo but said it “has not caused any effect on the Cuban government, but yes on the Cuban people, because it has been fifty-something years with the same policy, and what has it solved?”


leftside said...

Credit is deserved for Juan Tamayo at the Herald for trying to dig a little deeper into this notion of the number of "political prisoners" in Cuba. This is urgently needed, as most of the media seems to be accepting Elizardo Sanchez's list of 167 as the gospel.

Amnesty International's number of 53 is the only number with any semblence of credibility. They certainly are aware of Mr. Sanchez's list but have determined the rest don't meet the internaionally accepted standards of what is a political prisoners - for obvious reasons. If we were to include anyone who committed a crime for a political motive, tens many thousands of Americans would meet that definition (including myself at one point). The prisoners in Guantanamo Bay would have to be called political prisoners as well.

leftside said...

And now AP does some more digging:

Of the remaining 104, about half were convicted of terrorism, hijacking or other violent crimes, and four are former military or intelligence agents convicted of espionage or revealing state secrets.

Gerardo Ducos, a London-based Amnesty International researcher specializing in the Caribbean, said his agency would never describe many on Sanchez's list as "prisoners of conscience."

"We describe a prisoner of conscience as somebody who goes to jail for their beliefs or for exercising peacefully — and that is a key component — their rights for freedom of expression," Ducos said.

Sanchez's list includes "people brought to trial for terrorism, espionage and those who tried, or actually succeeded, in blowing up hotels," he added. "We certainly would not call for their release or describe them as prisoners of conscience."