August 6th., 1997
ABA Human Rights Award Winners Detained In Cuba
By Gail Appleson, Law Correspondent
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 5 (Reuter) - Two Cuban human rights lawyers won an
award from the American Bar Association on Tuesday but were not able to
the ceremony because they were being detained in Havana.
Dr. Rene Gomez Manzano and Dr. Leonel Morejon Almagro were to have
the International Human Rights Award given by ABA's litigation section
the group's annual meeting.
The lawyers represented dissidents in human rights cases and founded
independent organisations seeking to promote the rule of law in Cuba, the
Pablo Llabre, another Cuban human rights lawyer, accepted the award
colleagues and told the bar group that the honour will give the lawyers
support and may help protect them from action by Cuba's Communist
``The international recognition may force the government to hold back
its prosecution,'' he said through an interpreter.
He told Reuters that the Cuban government had not yet announced
against the men. ``Their only crime was to think,'' he said.
He said Gomez Manzano was arrested on July 16 and remains in prison.
believed to be under investigation for ``counter-revolutionary''
the Cuban government.
Llabre said that Morejon Almagro has been held under house arrest
last week. Dissident sources in Havana said he was not currently in prison
the Cuban government appeared to have delayed or denied issuing him the
necessary papers to travel to the United States.
The sources said state security police visited Morejon last month to
him he could be jailed if he continued his dissident activities and tell
keep a low profile.
Christopher Wall, chairman of the award nomination process, said the
men had pursued the highest ideals of the legal profession in the face of
``These individuals face persecution for advocating rights we too
take for granted in the United States. We hope the awards will provide
international recognition that will help protect the award recipients from
government reprisals,'' he said.
Gomez Manzano has worked for years defending cases involving human
violations and has openly criticised irregularities in court proceedings.
In 1990 he helped organise the Corriente Agromontista, a group of
willing to litigate political cases against the state. The group seeks to
Cuba's judicial system from within, requiring the Cuban government to obey
He has tried to register the organisation as an independent law office
the request has been ignored and the group's meetings disrupted or
from taking place.
Gomez Manzano was arrested along with his three colleagues in a
group called the ``Internal Dissidence Working Group'' which had achieved
prominence in recent months, holding two news conferences for foreign
Cuban officials said the four dissidents were being investigated for
Morejon Almagro was instrumental in creating the Concilio Cubano, an
umbrella organisation composed of about 140 groups including the Corriente
Agromontista. The group's mission was to promote a peaceful transition to
The Cuban government refused to recognise Concilio Cubana.
When the group formally requested authorisation from the government to
a national meeting in February 1996, Morejon Almagro was arrested and
to 15 months in prison for ``disrespect.''