Hunger Striker Isolated – Journalists and Democracy Activist Detained
ISHR: Cuba’s leadership practices news suppression and imprisons journalists
Havana/Frankfurt am Main, 17 May 2021 – For more than two weeks, journalists Mary Karla Ares and Esteban Rodríguez as well as democracy activist Thais Franco have been imprisoned. They had protested peacefully on 30 April to be allowed to visit the hunger-striking Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, reports the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR). They were arrested together with other demonstrators. Alcántara, the most prominent artist of the dissident San Isidro movement, was on hunger and thirst strike at the time.
According to information of the ISHR, Rodríguez, Ares and Franco are being held in the “Villa Marista”, the headquarters of the Cuban political police. They are accused of disorderly conduct, insubordination and resisting arrest – these charges can lead to up to one year in prison in Cuba. ISHR, which is represented by a section in Cuba, demands the immediate lifting of the news blackout on Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara as well as information on the conditions of detention of Mary Karla Ares, Thais Franco and Esteban Rodríguez and their immediate release.
The family of Mary Karla Ares had filed a habeas corpus petition on behalf of the three detainees on the day of their arrest. It demands that a defendant must be brought before a judge within a short period of time, who can review the legality of the arrest. The 29-year-old journalist’s mother was handed a paper refusing the detention review outside the courthouse on 5 May. The Supreme Court too rejected the case on the grounds that “the detention was legal and public order was disturbed”.
Mary Karla Ares works as a reporter for the newspaper Amanecer Habanero, Esteban Rodríguez is a staff member of the independent media ADN Cuba. Mary Karla Ares was recording the protest and reporting about it live on Facebook when she was prevented from doing her job and arrested. Esteban Rodríguez, father of two daughters, is the only detainee who remained missing for over a week after 30 April. His wife Zuleidis Gómez Cepero asked for a sign of life from her husband because she has not been able to visit him since his arbitrary arrest. Civil rights activist Thais Franco, mother of three, spent this year’s Mother’s Day in detention as well.
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara held in hospital since 2 May
Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was forcibly taken to the “General Calixto García” University Hospital in Havana by security forces on 2 May. There he has been completely isolated until now, held against his will and not allowed to communicate with the outside world. The regime critic had gone on hunger and thirst strike on 26 April in protest against human rights violations. Cuban human rights activists and the ISHR fear that his life is in acute danger and continue to demand immediate access to him by independent doctors.