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Cuba: Writer sentenced to five years in prison

22 February 2013

Writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats has been sentenced to five years in prison for alleged trespassing and assault on the basis of an apparently flawed trial, wrote The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International on 22 February 2013.

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Ángel Santiesteban Prats is an award-winning writer and author of the blog ‘The Children Who Nobody Loved’ (‘Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso’). He is awaiting imprisonment after being sentenced to five years in prison for alleged assault and trespassing.

PEN International encourages everyone to send appeals expressing concern that the trials of Ángel Santiesteban Prats “apparently failed to meet international human rights standards for fair trials, outlined in Article 14 of the ICCPR.”

Charges of a hit and run
The case dates back to 2009, when a number of charges were filed against him, including charges of a hit and run and aggravated robbery. He was eventually found guilty of having broken into his ex-wife’s house and physically assaulted her; all of the other charges were dropped. His sentence was handed down on 8 December 2012 and confirmed on appeal by the Supreme Court on 28 January 2013.

Santiesteban maintains that the charges are fabricated and politically motivated, retribution for his blog which is critical of the Cuban situation and government. He also claims that he was informed of what the outcome of the trial would be on 8 November 2012, one month before the sentencing took place, when he was arrested along with 15 others following the detention of lawyer Yaremis Flores Julián, and then beaten.

Details of the case against Santiesteban have not been made public in state media. However, according to the appeal lodged by his lawyer, there were a number of irregularities in the trial and sentencing. The plaintiff is said to have changed her statement four times and overall her testimony was inconsistent with the crimes of which Santiesteban was eventually found guilty. A supposed eyewitness for the plaintiff allegedly later confessed in a home video that he had been pressured and bribed by the plaintiff to lie, but this was reportedly discarded by the court.

A number of important witnesses in Santiesteban’s defence are said to have been overlooked, including three individuals who testified that he was not at the scene at the time that the crimes are alleged to have taken place, and the headmistress at his son’s school, who stated that the boy had confessed to her that his mother had forced him to make statements incriminating his father. The two-year sentence for trespassing is reportedly a year above the maximum one year penalty for such an offence.

Sanitesteban is a member of the official Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba – UNEAC). He has won a number of awards, including the Juan Rudolfo Prize from Radio France International (1989), National Prize from UNEAC (1995), Cesar Galeano award (1999), Alejo Carpentier Prize from the Cuban Book Institute for his short story collection Los hijos que nadie quiso (2001) and the Casa de las Américas Prize for his book Dichosos los que lloran (2006).

Read more on www.pen-international.org

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