Francisco Chaviano Released: Cuba’s Longest-Serving Political Prisoner

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Francisco Chaviano has been released from Combinado de Este prison in Cuba. Sr. Chaviano was jailed for one year in 1989 after organizing the Consejo de Lancheros de Cuba. In 1991 the organization was renamed the Consejo Nacional por los Derechos Civiles en Cuba. Soon thereafter, State Security authorities resumed their harassment of him and his family for participating in human rights activities. In 1994, Sr. Chaviano was accused of crimes against the state including revealing “security secrets” and “falsifying public documents”. Tried in a military court without due process he was ultimately sentenced to 15 years in prison. In 1998, Amnesty International reported:

AI believes he is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned because of his peaceful and legitimate activities as President of the unofficial National Council for Civil Rights in Cuba…AI has received reports that Francisco Chaviano is suffering from poor health, including a duodenal ulcer, and that he has been harassed as a result of complaints that he has made against the prison authorities.

[Hat tip to CUBAPOLIDATA]

Via the BBC:

A well-known Cuban dissident has been freed from jail after serving nearly 15 years for revealing state security secrets, a human rights group has said. Francisco Chaviano, a former teacher, was sentenced in 1995 and was released on parole on Friday. The independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said that he was Cuba’s longest-serving political prisoner.

The Cuban government has not commented on Mr Chaviano’s release.

Mr Chaviano had been one of Cuba’s leading dissidents and human rights activists in the early 1990s. In the past Amnesty International has described his military trial as falling short of international standards.

Prison conditions

The number of political prisoners in Cuba has fallen by about 20% since Raul Castro, brother of President Fidel Castro, was named as acting president just over a year ago, according to the Human Rights commission. But its spokesman, Elizardo Sanchez, said that there were still more than 200 such prisoners living in what he described as sub-human and degrading conditions.

The Cuban authorities denied that they were political prisoners, describing them as “counter-revolutionary mercenaries” on the payroll of the United States.

Also on Friday, another former political prisoner, Martha Beatriz Roque, held a news conference to denounce prison conditions. At the residence of the top US diplomat in Havana, she was joined by relatives of a number of dissidents currently in jail. The families complained of a lack of medical care, overcrowding and intimidation and said common criminals were treated better than political prisoners.

More coverage here, here, and here.

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