UPDATED, July 11, 2008: Leonardo Bruzón was released from custody on July 10, 2008.
I hope I end up being premature in declaring Leonardo Miguel Bruzón Ávila a Political Prisoner of the Week. I hope that Bruzón, a former political prisoner arrested as part of a roundup of Cuban dissidents late last week, has been released, like the others, but has been unable to get word to his friends and allies. I hope he is safe.
Presuming the worse, it is vital that those of us who monitor the human rights situation in Cuba and the work of brave men and women like Bruzón remain vigilant on their behalf. Otherwise, our silence only aids their oppressors.
Bruzón, who is in his early 50s, spent more than 2 years in prison without ever being brought to trial or even having formal charges filed against him. He had been arrested Feb. 22, 2002, to block him and the organization he heads, the 24th of February Movement, from commemorating the sixth anniversary of the Cuban Air Force's shootdown of the two Brothers to the Rescue planes, killing three American citizens and an American resident. (Bruzón's group is named after the date of the slaughter in 1996, as well as the start of the Cuban War of Independence in 1895.)
While imprisoned, Bruzón, whom Amnesty International named a "prisoner of conscience," carried out several hunger strikes, putting his life in grave danger. Despite his poor health, Bruzón in 2003 refused an offer to be released — if he first submitted to an interview with
journalists transcriptionists from the state media.
But he was far from retired from the Cuban dissidence movement. As recently as this past April, Cuban police arrested Bruzón, after he hosted in his home a prayer service during which worshipers proclaimed, "Freedom for Cuban political prisoners and prisoners of conscience." He was released 24 hours later after what he described as "rough" interrogations.
Caught. Threatened. Released. But never intimidated.
During last week's crackdown, Cuban police picked up Bruzón at his home at about 5 a.m. on July 3, according to a news release from Cuban dissident leader Marta Beatriz Roque. About three dozen dissidents were arrested, harassed, deported from Havana, etc.; according to Roque, the sweep was designed to prevent them from attending festivities commemorating American Independence Day at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
According to several accounts available tonight, July 6, Bruzón is the only one who remains in jail.
"Leonardo Miguel Bruzón Avila remains missing, we do not know where he is. His family doesn't know his whereabouts. State Security showed up at his house saying they needed to speak with him, and we have witnesses that he was arrested by them at 5 in the morning of July 3," said Cuban human rights activist Juan Carlos González Leiva Gonzalez.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of political prisoners. To illustrate that reality, Uncommon Sense each week profiles one prisoner. There also is a Political Prisoner archive on the right sidebar. To suggest a prisoner for a profile, send me an e-mail at email@example.com
For profiles of imprisoned Cuban journalists and related information, read the March 18 Project.