Updated, Aug. 10, 2007 — Francisco Chaviano has been released from prison.
The wife of political prisoner Francisco Chaviano González last week again implored international governments and human rights organizations to call on the Castro dictatorship to release her husband, who has been imprisoned since May 1994 because of his human rights work. Chaviano is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.
Ana Aguililla has petitioned a Cuban court for her husband's release, but such requests, as she wrote in a story for Payo Libre last week, don't carry much weight with the dictatorship:
In Cuba, no one can give an accurate answer about the status of a political prisoner. They just accept petitions. No one knows where the file is or when it will be decided if a political prisoner will be released.
Chaviano, 53, who suffers from a variety of health ailments, is recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. He was jailed in 1994, according to Cuba Archive, because of his "relentless work documenting disappearances."
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote extensively about Chaviano in a 2002 column:
In 1989, Francisco Chaviano Gonzalez — like countless others over the years — tried to flee Cuba on a raft. The right to leave is fundamental in international law ("Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own" — Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13), but in Cuba it is harshly suppressed. Chaviano was caught and sent to prison, where he formed the Cuban Rafters Council to provide solidarity to others in the same position. After his release, he began trying to document the many thousands of men, women, and children who had died trying to cross the Florida Straits — all of whom were treated as nonpersons by the Cuban government.
The more Chaviano learned about the circumstances that led so many Cubans to flee, the more he spoke out against government abuse and persecution. He renamed his organization the National Council for Civil Rights and repeatedly condemned Cuba's human rights violations. In response, he and his family were subjected to a campaign of harassment and assault. Their home was attacked. Threatening messages wrapped around rocks were thrown through the windows. Vulgar graffiti was painted on the outside wall.
Chaviano refused to be intimidated. So government goons broke into his home and beat him up. Still he persisted in speaking out. Early in the morning of May 7, 1994, a man he didn't know came to his door, delivered a sheaf of papers, and left. Moments later, the security police raided the house. They made a great show of finding the planted document, which they seized as "evidence." Chaviano was arrested and held for nearly a year before learning that he would be charged with "revealing state secrets" and "illicit enrichment."
His trial was a farce. It was closed to the public, but the courtroom was packed with state security agents. Chaviano was not allowed to see the evidence against him, nor to call witnesses in his own defense. His conviction was a foregone conclusion; his sentence was 15 years.
That was eight years ago. Today, he is locked in the maximum-security Combinado del Este prison; his wife is permitted to visit him once every two months. His health has deteriorated — he suffers from an ulcer and respiratory problems — but his ideals remain intact. "His spirit is strong," his wife told me recently. "He gives me strength."
Aguililla has been a tireless advocate for her husband during his time in prison.
In 2005, she wrote: "We ask all people who love peace and freedom to join us in demanding that Francisco Chaviano Gonzalez and all prisoners of conscience be released. This could save their lives."
For more about Chaviano, in Spanish, visit his page at Payo Libre.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of more than 300 political prisoners. To illustrate that reality, Uncommon Sense each week profiles one prisoner. There also is a Political Prisoner archive on the left sidebar. To suggest a prisoner for a profile, send me an e-mail.
For profiles of imprisoned Cuban journalists and related information, read the March 18 Project.