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IRI Statement on Arrests of Cuban Dissidents

February 6, 2014

Washington, DC – IRI issued the following statement following reports that leading pro-democracy activists had been arrested by state security agents near Placetas (Villa Clara, Cuba).  For more information, see “Cuban police detain dissident known as Antúnez and his wife,” Miami Herald

“Tuesday’s violent arrest of prominent Cuban democracy and human rights activists Jorge Luis García Pérez (known as “Antúnez”) and his wife Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, is further evidence that the Cuban state is not ready to be a respected or responsible member of the international community.  Antúnez was arrested prior to his departure from Cuba to attend a United Nations-related human rights conference in Geneva.  Although the couple was subsequently released, authorities have refused to return personal belongings including a cell phone, computers and passports.  The Cuban authorities’ repression of peaceful activities is inexcusable and deserves international condemnation.  Moreover, these actions violate both Antúnez’s rights and accepted international norms.”

Antúnez and Yris Pérez were able to leave Cuba for the first time last year when the government eased its ban on citizen travel.  Antúnez, the head of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Front for Civic Resistance, previously served 17 years in prison and was released in 2007.  IRI noted that the detentions of Antúnez and his wife follow similar repressive actions against other dissidents such as Berta Soler, Antonio Rodiles, Coco Fariñas, Cuesta Morua and Pastor Mario Felix, all of whom criticized the regime while traveling abroad.

In January alone, 1,095 such political detentions were documented in Cuba.  IRI said in its statement that other countries must make it known to the Castro regime that its behavior is unacceptable and that the international community defends the rights of brave citizens everywhere to meet and speak freely in their quest for self-determination.