UPDATED, Aug. 20, 2010 — Adolfo Fernández has been released under a deal reached by Spain, the Catholic Church and the Castro dictatorship.
A new petition campaign implores the Cuban government to release from prison independent journalist Adolfo Fernández Saínz.
Fernández, 57, is one of the "Group of 75" dissidents arrested during the "black spring" crackdown of March 18-20, 2003. At the time of his arrest, he was a correspondent for Prima, a Russian news agency.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Fernández was accused of directly or indirectly supplying information to the U.S. government likely to facilitate application of the embargo and other restrictions against Cuba. He was convicted April 4, 2003, under article 4 of Law 88 (protection of national independence and economy) and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Fernández's greatest crime, however, may have been that he turned against the regime after several years of being one of its functionaries.
Fernández was born in San Luis, in the western province of Pinar del Rio, and has a degree in English language and literature. He worked for about 15 years as an interpreter for government agencies before being dismissed for his political views in 1994.
He then joined the independent news agency Nueva Prensa and a year later the Patria agency, where he wrote about politics, society and religion (he is a Catholic).
He also contributed to foreign publications, especially in Sweden. He became Prima correspondent in July 2001.
While in prison, Fernández, who suffers from a variety of health ailments, has carried out several hunger strikes to protest living conditions. In turn, his jailers have reserved for him some of their worst treatment.
According to RSF, Fernández is viewed as one of the political prisoners with "the most worrying state of health."
(H/T to El Cafe Cubano for passing on news about the petition campaign.)
For more on Uncommon Sense's March 18 Project, including profiles of other independent journalists, in and out of prison, read here.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Reporters Without Borders has an ongoing petition drive asking Castro to release independent journalists in prison. You can sign the petition here. (A technical note: Reporters Without Borders is based in Paris, so the confirmation e-mail you will receive after signing the petition will be in French. Just in case you don't read French, the confirmation e-mail asks you click on the link to complete the petition signature process. Castro won't receive your message until you click on the link.)
For more on the Cuban dissidents, including a chance to "adopt a dissident," see the Cuban American National Foundation's Web site.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is find and read the work of independent journalists still on the island. A place to find their articles, in Spanish, English and French, is CubaNet.