Cuba: Authorities must end the harassment of the mother of deceased prisoner of conscience

Press Release
August 17, 2010

Cuba: Authorities must end the harassment of the mother of deceased prisoner of conscience

Amnesty International Calls on Cuban Authorities to End the Harassment of the Mother of Deceased Prisoner of Conscience

August 17, 2010

The Cuban authorities must act to end the harassment of the mother of a prisoner of conscience who died following a hunger strike to push for the release of other prisoners, Amnesty International said today.

Reina Luisa Tamayo, whose son Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in February this year, told Amnesty International she has been repeatedly harassed by authorities and government supporters during the regular marches in memory of her son that she carries out in the town of Banes.

"Reina Luisa Tamayo is simply paying tribute to her son who died in tragic circumstances, and that must be respected by the authorities," said Kerrie Howard, Amnesty International's Americas deputy director.

Every Sunday Tamayo, who is usually accompanied by relatives and friends, walks from her home to the church of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, to attend mass and then they march to the cemetery, where Orlando is buried.

On Sunday August 15, government supporters arrived early in the morning and surrounded her house, Tamayo told Amnesty International, preventing her and her relatives and friends from marching and attending mass at the church.

Ahead of the march, Cuban security forces also allegedly detained in their homes some of the women due to attend for up to 48 hours, without any explanation for the measure.

Tamayo told Amnesty International that six loudspeakers were installed near her house and were used to shout slogans against her and the Ladies in White, an organization of female relatives of prisoners of conscience campaigning for their release.

On August 8, Tamayo was confronted by government supporters, who blocked her path and, according to her account, beat relatives and friends of the family. She said a police patrol was parked nearby watching the events, but failed to intervene.

Amnesty International has also expressed its concern at a series of recent detentions by the police of independent journalists and dissidents. "At a time when the Cuban government has begun to release prisoners of conscience, the campaign of harassment against Reina Luisa Tamayo and the arbitrary detention of journalists and dissident figures shows that the authorities are yet to make significant progress on human rights," said Howard.

Writer Luis Felipe Rojas Rozabal was detained by the police at 7 a.m. on August 16, at his home in the town of San Germán, province of Holguín.

Rozabal's family is unaware of the reasons of his arrest, but they have said they suspect this might be related to his criticism of the government. He has been arbitrarily detained on several previous occasions in similar circumstances.

Several members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, a network of political dissident organizations, have also been detained.

Background

Orlando was one of dozens of prisoners of conscience adopted by Amnesty International in Cuba at the time. The majority were among the 75 people arrested as part of the massive March 2003 crackdown by authorities against political activists.

Currently there are at least 30 prisoners of conscience in Cuba's jails. Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.