CJFE asks Canada for help with release of ailing Cuban journalist

Tuesday, February 29, 2000

The Hon. Lloyd Axworthy
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Canada
K1A 0A6
fax: 613-966-3443

Dear Minister Axworthy,

Further to your letter of April 19, 1999, I wish first to thank you for your interest and action related to human rights and freedom of expression in Cuba. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression remains very concerned about the treatment of journalists and writers in Cuba.

Particularly, we wish to express our concern subsequent to alarming reports on the state of health of writer and political activist Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello. Roque Cabello was arrested in July 1997 and is currently serving a three-and-a-half year prison sentence on charges of "sedition and other acts against state security" for an article entitled "La Patria es de Todos." Her co-authors, Félix Antonio Bonne Carcasses, René Gómez Manzano and Vladimir Roca Antúnez, together with Roque Cabello known as the Internal Dissidents Working Group for the Analysis of the Cuban Socio-Economic Situation, remain in jail as well.

According to information received by the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN, Roque Cabello may be suffering from advanced breast cancer, as well as other ailments probably caused or aggravated by her imprisonment. There are fears that she is not receiving appropriate medical treatment and that her conditions of detention are very poor. Over the past few months, she has been reportedly transferred several times not only from prison to hospital but also to various "safe houses" in unknown locations. The motive behind this succession of transfers remains unexplained and the continued silence of the authorities serves to increase alarm about Roque Cabello's condition.

We have written to President Fidel Castro asking him to authorize immediate release of Roque Cabello and, failing that, to ensure that she received adequate medical treatment and be allowed regular visits without interferance. We also call on the Cuban government to provide further information about the location of Roque Cabello and her state of health.

We urge the Government of Canada join us in this request, and to use all means available to entreat the Cuban government to release Roque Cabello.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Sharmini Peries
Executive Director

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