UPDATED: Aug. 22, 2007
Betancourt was released from prison, after serving a 15-month sentence handed down in July 2007.
Reporter jailed in Cuba after covering government evictions
New York, May 30, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the detention of independent Cuban journalist Armando Betancourt who was arrested a week ago while covering the evictions of dozens of families from their homes in the central city of Camagüey, sources told CPJ.
On May 23, authorities forcefully evicted families allegedly occupying homes illegally, according to local sources. Betancourt, a reporter for the news agency Nueva Prensa Cubana in Camagüey, was arrested along with several people who were protesting the evictions, a relative told CPJ. The journalist did not participate in the protests, according to several sources.
At the time of the arrest, Betancourt identified himself as a journalist, sources told CPJ. The journalist handed over his notes before he was pushed into a truck and taken into custody, they said
The journalist is being held at a local police station on the outskirts of Camagüey, CPJ sources said. Authorities confirmed the detention to a family member on May 24, but relatives have not been allowed to visit him, a relative said. Police told Betancourt’s family that the journalist would be charged with aggravated public disturbance and could be sentenced to prison.
“We are outraged by the arrest of our colleague who was arbitrarily detained solely for doing his job,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on Cuban authorities to immediately release Betancourt and the other 24 journalists who are currently imprisoned.”
UPDATED, 7:27 a.m., June 1, 2006
Reporters Without Borders has more details on Betancourt's arrest.
Dissident Ernesto Corría said the police approached Betancourt and asked him to identify himself. When he said he was an independent journalist, he was immediately arrested and taken in a truck to a police station on Avellaneda street. From there he was transferred to the premises of the PNR’s 3rd detachment in Camagüey on 29 May. Neither his parents nor his wife have been allowed to see him and his present situation is unknown.
The police said he is charged with “disturbing the peace.” According to Corría, other people present at the eviction were also arrested. The police told Betancourt’s family they would be able to visit him today if he was still being held at the 3rd detachment. But the police refused to let the family bring him clean clothes.
A Reporters Without Borders source said Betancourt had been hit many times by the police and was badly bruised, and this was why he was being kept in isolation.
UPDATED, 12:23 p.m. EDT
The Cuban Democracy Directorate reports that Betancourt's family was allowed to visit him on Wednesday.
"The family members informed that he is being charged with “Public Disorder,” under which charge, 9 other people have already been released on bail, expect for Betancourt," the CDD story states.