Less than a month after the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, his brother Raúl is carrying on his brother’s legacy, arresting dozens of political dissidents and one U.S. human rights lawyer over the weekend.
Cuban police interrupted a Sunday protest organized by José Daniel Ferrer, the head of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), who had called together hundreds of his followers to march for the liberation of political prisoners in Cuba.
The protest march was to proceed from the city of Santiago de Cuba to the National Shrine of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre.
The 46-year-old Ferrer was arrested at UNPACU headquarters at 6:00am in the city of Santiago de Cuba along with his wife and held for several hours. “They threatened me and told me that this demonstration was abetting crimes of public disorder, attacks, disobedience and espionage,” Ferrer said after his release.
Ferrer said that his arrest was part of a joint operation carried out in the early morning by police in Santiago and Palma Soriano to make sure the protest never happened. “They searched four homes, and so far we have 42 reported arrests—20 in Santiago, 12 in Palma and 10 in Havana,” he said.
The items confiscated during the search of UNPACU were cell phones, laptops, USB flash drives, external disk drives, documents of the organization, clothes and medicines, according to eyewitness reports.
On Friday, Cuban police arrested U.S. human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley in Havana, and later released her after subjecting her to three interrogations, the last of which made her miss her flight back to the U.S.
Motley was reportedly investigating the case of Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto,” who was jailed shortly after the death of Fidel Castro, allegedly for writing on a wall in Havana “Se fue” (“He’s gone”).
The lawyer had offered to travel to the Island and thought to discreetly gather information on the matter. She had met Maldonado at the Oslo Freedom Forum where they struck up a friendship.
Once in Cuba, Motley attempted to interview Maldonado in prison, known as the Combinado del Este, but the authorities prevented her from completing the interview. Shortly afterward, she was arrested and subjected to three interrogations, first by police and then by immigration officials.
“Get on that plane tomorrow or go to jail,” Cuban officials told her after she missed her flight.
According to Javier El-Hage, the international legal director for the Human Rights Foundation where Motley works, his group had alerted American officials to her predicament, which expedited her release.
Motley says she will continue to investigate the case because “the arrest of Danilo Maldonado has no legal or moral basis.”
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