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(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International today welcomed news of former prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer García's release but called on Cuban authorities to end their broader ongoing harassment of political and human rights activists.
Ferrer García, coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), was set free on Wednesday after being detained for 36 hours. The activist was arrested earlier this week in the eastern province of Holguín but was not charged with any crime. His family was unaware of his whereabouts until authorities released him from custody yesterday afternoon.
"The latest arrest and short-term detention of José Daniel Ferrer García continues the Cuban authorities' cat-and-mouse game with political dissidents and human rights activists," said James Burke, Amnesty International's campaigner on the Caribbean. "This practice--used as a form of harassment and intimidation to repress legitimate, peaceful activism and freedom of expression--must come to a halt."
UNPACU was formed in mid-2011 as an umbrella group of Cuban dissident organizations in and around the province of Santiago de Cuba that seek democratic change through non-violent means. Since its creation, Cuban authorities have used repeated, short-term detentions to harass UNPACU members and other political dissidents. One member, Wilman Villar Mendoz, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, died last January on a hunger strike to protest his four-year sentence after a summary trial.
Ferrer García was among 75 Cuban dissidents arrested during the so-called 'Black Spring' crackdown in March 2003. Amnesty International subsequently adopted all 75 detainees as prisoners of conscience.
The UNPACU coordinator was granted conditional release in March 2011 after serving eight years of his 25-year jail sentence for political activism on the condition that he end his dissident activities. Following this conditional release last year, however, the police have re-arrested Ferrer García three times.
After his recent detention in April, Ferrer García told Amnesty International that the authorities had arrested him to prevent him from travelling to Havana for meetings with other government critics peacefully seeking greater respect for civil and political rights in Cuba. He insisted that the ongoing campaign of harassment would neither deter him nor his colleagues from continuing their activism.
"Our goal is to establish true rule of law in Cuba where freedom of expression, freedom of association--all fundamental freedoms--are respected," said Ferrer García. "Until we achieve this, we will continue our peaceful struggle."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.