Freedom for Cuban journalists
Today marks the fifth anniversary of Cuba's Black Spring, when approximately 90 critics of Castro's regime were arrested as "agents of the American enemy". One-day hearings were held behind closed doors, with the accused denied time to put together cogent defences. They received prison sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years.
Of those arrested, 35 were writers, journalists and librarians. Observers believed their convictions amounted to a concerted attempt to suppress Cuba's independent media, which was flourishing at the time. The crackdown prompted many other Cuban journalists to give up their professions or opt for exile.
Some of these prisoners have been conditionally released, on humanitarian grounds, since April 2004. Immediately before Castro's resignation last month, three were freed and allowed to leave for Spain, for unknown reasons. Yet 28 others remain imprisoned under appalling conditions. Six journalists whose situation is of particular concern are Normando Hernández González, Adolfo Fernández Saínz, Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, Fabio Prieto Llorente, Pedro Argüelles Morán and José Luis García Paneque. All six have been in dangerously poor health for years. The only humane and just solution for all those unlawfully arrested in March 2003 is to release them unconditionally.
We, the undersigned members of the worldwide writers' association, call for the freedom of our Cuban colleagues to be returned to them, and for freedom of expression to return to Cuba.
Lisa Appignanes President, English PEN
Sir Alan Ayckbourn,