UPDATED, Feb. 19, 2011 — The Cuban Catholic Church announced today that Juan Bermúdez would be released and take exile in Spain.
UPDATED, March 5, 2008 A Cuban court on March 4, 2008, sentenced Bermúdez to 4 years in prison, for "threatening." What was not known is whether that sentence has been added to the 12-year-sentence mentioned below or does it takes its place? UPDATED, Aug. 31, 2009Based on subsequent reports, including this one, it appears Bermúdez is serving a sentence of 4 1/2 years. In Raul Castro's Cuba, just like under his big brother, what passes for "justice," often is handed down in secret. Consider what happened late last year to human rights activist and lawyer Juan Antonio Bermúdez Toranzo. Bermúdez, vice president of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, was one of several dissidents arrested Nov. 21, as they participated in a fast in support of political prisoners on the island. Other dissidents responded by holding a sit-in outside the police station where he was being held, but to no avail. In a new report this past week, human rights activist Rene Montes de Oca Martija — himself, a former political prisoner — reports that Bermúdez last month was tried in secret, convicted of "revealing state secrets," and sentenced to 12 years in prison. In retaliation for an apparent hunger strike by Bermúdez, guards placed him in a punishment cell at the Guayabo prison on the Isle of Pines, denying him his clothes and water. According to Montes de Oca, Bermúdez then attempted suicide. "The guards at that prison subject him to constant psychological tortures, which drove Bermúdez Toranzo to attempt suicide by taking a halogen light and inflicting injuries to his body," Montes de Oca said. I first wrote about Bermúdez Toranzo in March, when he was arrested as he left the U.S. Interest Section in Havana. The police apparently wanted to know more about his work at the "Rosa Parks Independent Library." Bermúdez Toranzo described his detention to Cuban independent journalist Roberto Santana Rodriguez, and vowed to continue his opposition to the dictatorship. Santana wrote:
The opponent said that despite the repression, he would be continuing his work for human rights, liberty and democracy in Cuba, and that he would continue going to the Interest Section and its press and culture department, for which he is thankful for the support he has received for his Rosa Parks independent library.
This past week, about two dozen people — complete with signs declaring, "Freedom for Juan Bermúdez, "Freedom for the Cuban people," and "Long live human rights" — marched to demand that Bermúdez be released from prison, according to a report from Montes de Oca Martija.