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01/23/12 - Washington Post - Amnesty Int'l says 3 Cubans named prisoners of
conscience were released from jail within hours

Ivonne Malleza Galano, Ignacio Martinez Montejo and Isabel Haydee Alvarez
were set free Jan. 20 but threatened with "harsh sentences" if they do not
stop their anti-government actions, the human rights monitor said in a
statement Monday.

It said all three were detained at a Nov. 30 protest in Havana at which
Malleza and Martinez held a banner that read "Stop hunger, misery and
poverty in Cuba." Alvarez was arrested for objecting when security forces
took the other two into custody.

"Amnesty International had adopted them as prisoners of conscience, as
they were detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of
expression and freedom of assembly, and had called for their immediate and
unconditional release," the statement said.

Cuba considers dissident activity to be counterrevolutionary, and the
dissidents to be mercenaries out to bring down the communist-run
government. It denies holding any political prisoners in its lockups.

Amnesty, which has strict criteria for who constitutes a "prisoner of
conscience" including a history of nonviolence, had not recognized any
Cuban inmates as such since the previous spring, when the last of 75
dissidents jailed since a 2003 crackdown were freed.

Villar was arrested in November in the eastern city of Santiago following
an anti-government protest.

The Cuban government denied that he had been on hunger strike or was even
truly a dissident. It described him as a "common criminal" sent to prison
for domestic violence, said he received all the medical attention he
needed and alleged that his case was being manipulated for political ends.

Authorities' indignation continued Monday as official newspapers Granma
and Trabajadores published an editorial titled "Cuba's Truths." Taking up
the entire front pages of both publications, it attacked critics' own
records on human rights and defended the island, citing achievements in
health care, education and literacy, and calling the accusations a smear
campaign by Cuba's enemies.

"The so-called political prisoner was serving a sentence of four years,
following a fair process ... and a trial according to the rule of law, for
brutally and publicly beating his wife, threatening police and violently
resisting arrest," the editorial said

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which
monitors detentions of dissidents in Cuba, sent an open letter to the
government demanding access to the investigation.

It said it wanted to confirm or rule out its belief that Villar was
unfairly and disproportionately punished for his political activities,
held in solitary confinement and given inadequate medical care when he
went on hunger strike. Signed by Commission founder Elizardo Sanchez, a
dissident and former prisoner himself, the letter doubted that Villar was
truly imprisoned for beating his wife.

"The family incident from July 2011 should be clarified, as well as the
reasons why he would be freed and sent back to the family home despite the
possible risks from a supposed situation of domestic violence," it read.

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