Cuba: Amnesty International 'appalled' at longest sentences in 20 years

Over 30 people have been sentenced in Cuba for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association. The organisation also voiced grave concern at calls for the death penalty for some dissidents.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, said: 'This is a terrible development for Cuba. These are the longest sentences in over twenty years, handed out after summary trials to such a wide range of people.'

'Amnesty International fears these people may have been arrested for nothing more than the peaceful exercise of fundamental freedoms. They have been sentenced after unfair trials conducted in secrecy.'

In a particularly worrying development, prosecutors have reportedly called for the death penalty against activist José Daniel Ferrer Castillo, regional coordinator in Santiago de Cuba province for the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, (Christian Liberation Movement) and the Varela Project, a petition for a referendum on fundamental freedoms. Amnesty International, which had publicly welcomed the de facto moratorium on executions in Cuba over the last three years, considers the prosecution's alleged recourse to the death sentence against José Daniel Ferrer Castillo to be a severely regressive step.

Amnesty International has just published Cuba: Massive crackdown on dissent, a report on the wave of arrests of at least 77 political dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists. All of them are apparently being subjected to unfair trials after being accused of state security and other offences.

Kate Allen added: 'The Cuban government must ensure that no-one is imprisoned for the non-violent exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association,'

Amnesty International would consider anyone imprisoned for these reasons to be a prisoner of conscience.

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