Cuba detained José Daniel Ferrer, the leader of the country’s largest dissident group the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), this month and, as of press time Friday, has yet to release him.
Authorities have not offered family any explanation for his arrest or charged him with any crime.
According to various reports, Ferrer was arrested on October 1 and held incommunicado for 72 hours and has remained in detention ever since. He has not had access to a lawyer nor the chance to see his family or access medical care.
In a letter sent to Cuban second-in-command Miguel Díaz-Canel, Amnesty International accuses the communist regime of having “harassed and intimidated José Daniel Ferrer García for more than a decade due to his political activism,” adding that his detention “follows the naming by Amnesty International of six prisoners of conscience in less than two months.”
Amnesty notes that Ferrer is currently being held in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where his organization is based. According to his wife, his health remains precarious, having developed chronic gastroenteritis developed during his prior eight years in prison for pro-democracy activism. Authorities are reportedly refusing to provide him with medical care or receive medication paid and provided for by his family.
The human rights group goes on to demand that the regime “immediately inform José Daniel Ferrer García of the charges or otherwise release him, ensure he has immediate access to a lawyer of his choosing and can communicate with his family; [and] ensure he has prompt access to a proper medical examination, if requested – and to medical care on request or as necessary throughout the period of detention.”
Ferrer’s partner, Nelva Ismarays Ortega, said in an interview with Reuters that police threatened to charge him with a fabricated common crime so he would not be heralded as a political prisoner.
“They told him they were fed up with his activism … and that they were very uncomfortable with how he’d supported the measures of the U.S. government against the Castro regime,” Ortega told the agency. “He was in a lot of pain. But he said he wasn’t afraid, and he was prepared to spend more years in jail as long as the truth were known.”
The arrest also comes less than two months after Cuban police raided the UNPACU headquarters in Santiago while also arresting Ferrer. Following his release, he soon took to the streets again to participate in mass demonstrations to honor Cuba’s patron saint, Our Lady of Charity, and demand a transition to democracy as the country moves towards a post-Castro era.
Authorities arrested over 100 pro-democracy dissidents following the demonstration, many of whom accused security forces of raiding their homes and stealing items that are hard to access such as milk and cooking oil. Those who were not detained suffered heavy fines for unsubstantiated crimes such as “harm to the environment” or involvement in an unlawful protest. Cuba routinely uses these fines to imprison dissidence once they fail to pay, not being able to afford them.