Amnesty International Demands Release of Cuban Journalists Jailed for Listening to Hip Hop and Declares Them “Prisoners of Conscience”

Press Release
March 23, 2012

Amnesty International Demands Release of Cuban Journalists Jailed for Listening to Hip Hop and Declares Them “Prisoners of Conscience”

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150

(New York) – Amnesty International today declared two brothers – both journalists jailed for years for listening to hip-hop music -- to be “prisoners of conscience” and demanded their release. The human rights group said the unjust imprisonments shows repression in Cuba is “as strong as ever.”

One of the brothers, Antonio Michel Lima Cruz, suffers from prostate problems and is reportedly denied adequate medical treatment. He is eligible for conditional release after serving more than half his sentence but authorities refused to respond to petitions from his family and lawyer.

Antonio Michel and his brother Marcos Maiquel Lima Cruz, both of whom are independent journalists and members of the Cuban Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs, have been imprisoned since Christmas Day 2010. They were arrested at a holiday celebration with family and friends at their home in Holguin, in eastern Cuba.

"It is unacceptable that a simple family party constitutes imprisonment in Cuba, said Javier Zuniga, special advisor for Amnesty International. "The brothers' arrests shows that repression in Cuba is as strong as ever. Authorities are sharpening their strategies to silence dissent, targeting not only activists and journalists, but their families and friends as well."

During the celebration, the brothers danced in the street holding a Cuban flag and playing songs by a hip-hop group whose lyrics criticize the country’s lack of freedom of expression.

Shortly after midnight, police and state security officials arrived, entered their house by force and arrested the brothers.Their parents and friends were detained but later released.

The brothers were tried last May and sentenced to two and three years imprisonment, respectively, for "insulting symbols of the homeland" and "public disorder."

Amnesty International criticized the sentences as politically motivated and urged Cuba to restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 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.