Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Remembering during the holidays those in prison for acts of conscience: A Call to Action

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."- Hebrews 13:3

Enjoying the holidays with family and friends. Getting ready for the New Year's celebrations? Please take a moment from the festivities and think of those locked up and mistreated for exercising their fundamental human rights.

More than a dozen human rights and pro-democracy organizations from Latin America, Europe and the United States have made a request during this holiday season that bishops, priests, pastors, rabbis, and men and women of good will to engage in all possible efforts with the authorities to obtain an amnesty of all political prisoners in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Partial lists provided by internal human rights groups indicate that there are at least 120 political prisoners in Cuba, 576 political prisoners in Nicaragua, and 288 political prisoners in Venezuela spending the holiday season behind bars. At a minimum 984 fellow human beings arbitrarily detained and subjected to cruel and unusual punishments for being prisoners of conscience.

On December 23rd focused on three cases from three different countries: Cuba, Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco;Venezuela, José Alberto Marulanda; and Nicaragua, Amaya Eva Coppens. Sadly, there are many more and some cases are critical.

Cuba: Jailed artist on hunger strike
Maykel Castillo Pérez: Prisoner of conscience on hunger strike.
 In September of 2018 rapper Maykel Castillo Pérez, "El Osokbo" protested against Decree 349/2018 during a show. Three days after the concert, he was detained, and a case alleging that the artist committed assault against the police re-opened.  On November 15th Maykel sewed his mouth shut and began a hunger strike demanding he be freed. An official told him that they would meet his demand, and he ended the strike. But as the days turned into weeks, and the imprisonment continued, the Cuban artist on December 4th re-started the hunger strike

This is not the first time that he has been the victim of a politically motivated prosecution. On January 28, 2015, Maykel Castillo Pérez was sentenced to a year in prison in Havana. He was targeted for having used music to express his dissenting political opinions. He was charged with ‘peligrosidad predelictiva’ (‘pre-crime dangerousness’), which is used to imprison dissidents for what they potentially do in the future due to their associations and/or views.. His defense attorney told a reporter from Diario de Cuba that prosecutors wanted the judge to sentence him to five years. He once described his musical style as that of someone who “doesn’t make concessions with a system full of liars.”
Venezuela: National Assembly jailed on trumped up charges

Opposition deputy Juan Requesens in custody without a hearing (PanAm Post)
Former student opposition leader and opposition deputy of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Requesens, has been a steadfast, moderate, non-violent opposition leader to the Maduro regime in Venezuela.  The Maduro regime has manufactured charges that the opposition leader planned the assassination of Nicolas Maduro and is seeking to sentence him to 30 years in prison. He is 29 years old, married and father to two young children. He has been arbitrarily detained for 142 days. He has been the target in the past of brutal beatings.

On August 7, 2018, “fourteen men of the SEBIN (Maduro's intelligence agency) forcefully kidnapped lawmaker Juan Requesens and his sister Rafaela Requesens, the president of the Federation of University Centers, ” reported the Justice First party, to which Requesens belongs. His sister was released a short time later.

Nicaragua: Journalist arbitrarily detained

Lucia Pineda Ubau: Journalist imprisoned for exercising her freedom of expression
Lucia Pineda Ubau is the press chief of 100% Noticias, and she has Nicaraguan and Costa Rican citizenship. On the evening of December 21st, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, "the Nicaraguan police entered the offices of 100% Noticias, a privately owned cable and internet news station in Managua, ordered the station off the air, and arrested the channel's director Miguel Mora and news director Lucía Pineda Ubau." The Inter-American Press Association and the Nicaraguan auxiliary bishop of Managua, , Silvio José Báez, have publicly criticized the arrests.

Please join us in speaking up for these and other political prisoners. Please remember the words of the great Czech dissident Václav Havel who explained back in 1990 that "[t]he salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility."

It begins with you. Will you do your part?

1. Please  ask your pastor, rabbi, or priest to pray for the freedom of political prisoners during their religious services during this holiday season.

2. Please write letters to religious leaders in your community to request that the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua free their political prisoners.

3. Please use the following hashtags to spread this message.

#NavidadSinPresosPolíticosEnCubaVenezuelaYNicaragua. #ChristmasWithoutPoliticalPrisonersInCubaVenezuelaAndNicaragua  

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