Reporters Without Borders voiced concern at the arrest and detention on 21 July of dissident Darsi Ferrer, head of a health and human rights centre, saying it feared he faced a long period behind bars.
Ferrer, a medical doctor, has been jailed at the Valle Grande prison, west of the capital, Havana. He is well known for his reports on the state of the Cuban health system and the plight of political prisoners.
Ferrer, head of the Juan Bruno Zayas centre, was officially arrested for attempting to illegally acquire building materials for his house in Havana which is in a poor state of repair. He and his wife, Yusnaymi Jorge Soca, were prevented from leaving their home for 12 hours on 9 July the day they planned a peaceful march in the capital dubbed “The journey of a lifetime”. Several activists were arrested a few hours before the start of the demonstration.
“The completely absurd reasons given for his Ferrer’s arrest will obviously not fool anyone. It is a new ploy to silence a dissident voice and a particularly important one,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “There are worrying signs, that against a background of a fresh crackdown, his transfer to jail could mean the start of a prolonged period of imprisonment”, the organisation added.
An upsurge in short-term detentions and summonses by State Security has become the chief method of cracking down on dissidents, since the July 2006 handover of power by Fidel Castro to his brother, Raúl.
Independent journalist Ileana Pérez Nápoles was held by the political police in Las Tunas, eastern Cuba on 11 July at a march in tribute to victims of reprisals in an operation by the coast guard. Agents of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) took independent journalist David Águila Montero to the internal security department on 15 July. During questioning they seized his USB memory stick and copies of the US daily Nuevo Herald and The Dissident Review.
With 24 journalists in jail, including Reporters Without Borders’ correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso, founder of De Cuba magazine, Cuba is the world’s third biggest prison for the profession, after Iran and China.