Leading Cuban dissident ordered to serve four year prison sentence

  • World
  • Wednesday, 18 Aug 2021

FILE PHOTO: Jose Daniel Ferrer, who leads the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the country's largest dissident group, holds up a t-shirt with the writing "God, Fatherland, Freedom" in Palmarito de Cauto, Cuba, March 25, 2012. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba has revoked the right to home detention of leading dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer and ordered him to serve the remaining 4 years of a sentence for assault in prison, sparking criticism that the order was politically motivated.

Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), one of the Communist-run country’s largest and most active opposition groups, was arrested in October 2019 on charges of abducting and assaulting a man.

He denied the charges but was convicted in February 2020, with his 4 1/2 year prison sentence commuted to house arrest https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-cuba-politics/leading-cuban-dissident-released-from-jail-on-house-arrest-idUKKBN21L35E two months later under international pressure.

At the time, Cuba called Ferrer a U.S.-financed counter-revolutionary but said he was not arrested for his political views. Critics said the government invents in common crimes to impute to its opponents that it can silence them while claiming not to have political prisoners.

Ferrer told Reuters he would not comply with one of the conditions of his house arrest: that he refrain from political activism.

On July 11, he was arrested as he attempted to join a protest in his eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, that was part of an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests nationwide https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/street-protests-break-out-cuba-2021-07-11, and held in "preventative prison" on charges of public disorder.

Since then, relatives say they have not been able to speak to him or visit him. This week they shared a court document dated Aug. 12 showing authorities had determined Ferrer had contravened the terms for his right to home detention for his previous conviction.

As such, he should stay in prison to serve the remaining 4 years and 14 days of his original sentence, according to the document.

"This is absolutely motivated by politics, not the law, he didn't commit any crime, they just don't want him on the streets of Cuba because they are afraid," said Ferrer's sister Ana Belkis Ferrer.

Rights activists say authorities have used the wave of detentions in the wake of the July 11 protests to silence some of the country's most charismatic opponents.

The government blames the protests on counter-revolutionaries backed by its old and much larger foe the United States, that has long openly sought to force political change on the island.

Ferrer's relatives say they are worried about his health, especially as he had vowed to go on a hunger strike if he were detained on July 11 but has been incommunicado since.

"No-one has been able to speak to Jose Daniel, not even by phone," said Ferrer's sister. "It's a constant uncertainty."

Ferrer was one of 75 dissidents arrested in 2003 during a nationwide crackdown known as the Black Spring. He was released on parole in 2011 and soon after formed UNPACU.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Michael Perry)

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