Cuban dissident facing 15 years
Trial coincides with freeing of other political
His crime: organizing a campaign for the release of political prisoners.
Alfaro, who is vice president of the Association for Struggle Against National Injustice (ALFIN), goes on trial Friday before the Provincial People's Court of Havana. The formal charges against him are spreading enemy propaganda and rumor-mongering.
At least 24 other dissidents are in pretrial detention, according to
human rights activists, although
no official figures have been issued.
Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, told The Herald on Wednesday that the punishment the state seeks for Alfaro ``is not within the spirit of the current release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.''
Alfaro was arrested in Havana on May 8, 1997, hours after he issued a call for the mothers of political prisoners to submit an amnesty petition for their children to the National Assembly.
An announcement issued by Alfaro's group at the time said that at least 20 mothers would deliver the petition to the authorities.
Among those awaiting trial dates are Marta Beatriz Roque, Vladimiro Roca, Felix Bonne Carcasses and Rene Gomez Manzano, members of the Domestic Dissidence Working Group, who were arrested July 16.
Also awaiting a trial date is Salvadoran citizen Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon, who was arrested in September on charges of terrorism. He was accused of setting off explosive devices at tourist hotels, including one that killed an Italian citizen in Havana.
Due for trial Feb. 27 in the city of Santa Clara are Benito Fojaco, Israel Garcia, Jose R. Lopez, Angel Gonzalo and Reynaldo Sardiñas. The charges: ``acts against the security of the state.''
Meanwhile, the Cuban government continues to free political prisoners, within the framework of an amnesty requested by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Cuba Jan. 21-25.
According to Sanchez, 63 releases have been ``duly confirmed.'' Among them are the following, freed in the past few days:
Hermes Brocard Calas, Omar Millet Puerta, Eduardo Fornaris Peña, Fidel Castro Marrero, Ramon Diaz Barzaga, Luis Castillo Castañeda, Arturo Aguirre Acuña, Meraldo Ramos Fernandez, Benigno Benoit Pupo, Enrique Chamberlais Soler, Adolfo Duran Figueredo, Sergio Morell Rivero, Roldan Camacho Gallardo, Lazaro Trujillo Valdes, Marcelino Reynoso Alonso, Irelio Barroso Medina, Alfredo Reyes Lemus and Maritza Santos Rosell.
Santos Rossell is the first woman to be released since the amnesty began. She was serving an eight-year sentence imposed in 1995 for ``subversion.''
``Cuban authorities have always tried to conceal the fact that women are among the political prisoners, which would explain why only one woman appears on the list of pardons,'' said Amaya Antunez, member of the Commission on Human Rights of the Christian Democrat International.
About 36 women are behind bars in Cuba for political reasons, Antunez said, citing reports her organization has obtained. But that number could change, she added, because some releases have not been officially reported.
Also, it is possible that some women prisoners were tried under other categories, she said.
``Actually, there are a lot of women political prisoners officially listed as common or economic criminals,'' Antunez said.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald