The United States has condemned Cuba’s communist regime for the “outrageous” jailing of journalist Roberto Quiñones, who was arrested while covering a trial in Guantanamo Bay for the anti-communist website CubaNet.
Roberto Quiñones was arrested on the 22nd of April for his reporting a story on CubaNet about a pastor and his wife who were jailed for homeschooling their child. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Quiñones refused to pay the necessary fine and was later prosecuted on charges of “resistance” and “disobedience.”
Homeschooling is strictly illegal in Cuba, and children are expected to attend state-run institutions as part of their communist indoctrination. Although not officially illegal, the practice of religion is also widely repressed.
In a statement on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. government “strongly condemns” his sentence of one year in a labor camp,” while calling “upon the Cuban regime to immediately release Mr. Quinones and to cease their abuse and mistreatment.
The statement reads:
On August 7, the Cuban regime convicted Quinones on dubious charges of resistance and disobedience and sentenced him to one year in a labor camp. His detention and trial were marked by the flagrant disregard for legal norms that are typical of the Cuban regime. Cuban authorities did not inform Quinones of the charges against him until minutes before the trial, and did not permit him legal representation in the courtroom.
The regime’s prosecutors did not permit Quinones to present evidence of his injuries at the hands of the police who arrested him. Adding cruelty to injustice, regime officials have refused to allow Quinones to visit his ailing father.
Sadly, this is just one more example of the Cuban regime’s ongoing violation of human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and to fair trial guarantees. We will continue to use targeted sanctions and trade restrictions to cut off resources from the Cuban regime, which uses its income to repress its own people, and to prop up the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
The sentence was also condemned by CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney, who described the sentence as outrageous.
“The fact that Roberto Quiñones is sentenced to prison for failing to pay a fine, while the police agents who beat and detained him for days receive no punishment, is outrageous,” said in New York. “If authorities in Cuba want to convey an image of progress and openness to the international community, mistreating, jailing, and fining a journalist sends the wrong message.”
As noted by Human Rights Watch, “independent journalists [in Cuba] who publish information considered critical of the government are subject to harassment, smear campaigns, raids on their homes and offices, confiscation of their working materials, and arbitrary arrests.”
“The government controls virtually all media outlets in Cuba and restricts access to outside information. A small number of independent journalists and bloggers manage to write articles for websites or blogs, or publish tweets,” they note. “The government routinely blocks access within Cuba to these websites, and only a fraction of Cubans can read independent websites and blogs because of the high cost of, and limited access to, the internet.”