Amnesty International on Wednesday sounded the alarm on behalf of three Cuban political prisoners held in jail since March with no formal charges ever been filed.
The three prisoners are Sonia Garro Alfonso and her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz Gonzalez; and Niurka Luque Alvarez. While no charges have been filed, the strong suspicion in Cuba is that their arrests were part of a nationwide crackdown in March against the opposition in advance of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the island.
On 17 March in the Cuban capital, Havana, the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) were demonstrating peacefully to commemorate the anniversary of the 2003 crackdown on dissidents, when 18 of them were arrested and taken to police stations across the city. All but Niurka Luque Álvarez, were released a few hours later.
The following day, Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso, and her husband, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González, were arrested at their home in Havana: around 50 police forced their way into the house and fired rubber bullets at them. According to her sister, Sonia Garro Alfonso was wounded in the foot by one of these bullets.
Since then the two women have been sent to various detention centres, and are now held in Guatao women's prison in the outskirts of Havana. Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González is being held in Havana's Combinado del Este prison. Both women are reported to be in poor health. Sonia Garro Alfonso was suffering a kidney problem before her arrest that may require surgery. According to her daughter, Niurka Luque Álvarez regularly suffers epileptic fits. The women are allowed visits every week, and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González every two weeks.
Although all three have access to a lawyer, it is not clear what they have been charged with. Relatives told Amnesty International that the authorities have accused Sonia Garro Alfonso of attempted murder and public disorder, but none of them has been formally charged. They have yet to be told if or when they will be put on trial. They think they were arrested because of the visit of the Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba in March 2012 and their activism with the Ladies in White, and that it is intended to intimidate other government critics.
What to do?
Amnesty suggests writing a letter to demand the prisoners be either charged or released; that if they are charged, that they receive fair trials; and that the security forces end their perisistent harassment of the Ladies In White.
The regime will ignore the entreaties, but that does not diminsh the importance of speaking, of writing, on behalf of the prisoners. Your letter or other effort will remain both the prisoners and their jailers, that they are not forgotten.
For information on where to send your letter, go here.