Amnesty International called yesterday (17 August) on the Cuban authorities to end the ongoing harassment of the mother of a prisoner of conscience who died following a hunger strike.
Reina Luisa Tamayo, whose son Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in February this year, has been repeatedly harassed by authorities and government supporters during the regular marches she carries out in the town of Banes, in memory of her son.
Reina Luisa Tamayo told Amnesty how on Sunday 15 August government supporters arrived early in the morning and surrounded her house, 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 some of the women due to attend in their homes for up to 48 hours, without providing any explanation.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Americas Director, Kerrie Howard said:
“Reina Luisa Tamayo is simply paying tribute to her son who died in tragic circumstances, and that must be respected by the authorities."
Every Sunday Reina Luisa 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, from where they march to the cemetery, where Orlando is buried.
Reina Luisa also told Amnesty that six loudspeakers were installed near her house and were used to shout slogans against her and the Ladies in White, an organisation of female relatives of prisoners of conscience campaigning for their release.
Amnesty International has also expressed its concern at a series of recent detentions by the police of independent journalists and dissidents. Writer Luis Felipe Rojas Rozabal was detained by the police at 7am on 16 August, at his home in the town of San Germán, province of Holguín.
Luis Felipe’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 organisations, have also been detained.
Kerrie Howard continued: “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.”
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was arrested in March 2003 and, a year later, sentenced to three years in prison for “disrespect”, “public disorder” and “resistance”. This was the first of a series of convictions for “disobedience” and “disorder in a penal establishment”.
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.
In early December 2009, Orlando started a hunger strike to campaign for the release of prisoners of conscience held in Cuba. He died on 23 February 2010.
Currently there are at least 30 prisoners of conscience in Cuba’s jails. Last month following talks held between Cuban authorities and Roman Catholic Church officials in Havana, the Cuban government agreed to release 52 of the 53 prisoners of conscience which remained in Cuba’s jails. So far 23 have been released.
Amnesty International has called for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience currently held in Cuba, including lawyer Rolando Jiménez Posada who is serving a 12-year prison sentence and who is not as yet scheduled for release.