Lamberto Hernandez Plana
Updated, April 9, 2014: NBC News scored an interview with the former political prisoner:
In 1991, Lamberto Hernandez was sentenced to six months in a Cuban prison for committing a petty crime. He just walked free last weekend – 23 years later.
After landing in jail on a charge of petty theft, Hernandez said he became more politically aware and active. What he calls his acts of defiance, like engaging in over a dozen hunger strikes and advocating prisoner boycotts, added years to his sentence.
In 2003, he broke a prison television as he shouted anti-government slogans during a televised speech by then-president Fidel Castro. That act, he said, extended his sentence by another decade. One word, he said, describes what was done to him over the last 23 years of his life – "unjust.”
Newly free, 45-year-old Hernandez says his only plan is to "keep fighting" and that "no one can stop me." Instead of breaking him, the time he spent in prison gave him the "courage" to continue, he said. "I feel stronger to keep fighting," said Hernandez.
Read the whole thing here.
The following was originally posted on April 6.
Lamberto Hernandez Plana, who transformed himself into a committed member of the Cuban opposition after his unjust imprisonment 23 years ago, has been released from prison.
Hernandez, 45, was originally jailed on a bogus charge of "theft" after he refused to become an informant for the secret police, according to a May 2013 blog post by imprisoned Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban, who was imprisoned with Hernandez at the La Lima prison in Guanabacoa.
"In 2003, his sentenced was extended after he broke a prison television and shouted anti-government slogans during the airing of a speech by Fidel Castro," the Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs said in a statement announcing Hernandez's release on Saturday.
A veteran of about a dozen hunger strikes while in jail, Hernandez is an activist with both the human rights council and the Authentic Cuban Revolutionary Party.
Much of what is known about Hernandez's background was described in the blog post by Santiesteban, entitled "Lamberto Hernández Plana or How a Dissident is Born."
In his report, Santiesteban describes the circumstances of Hernandez's initial imprisonment, the tortures he suffered while in jail and how while imprisoned, he refused renewed efforts by the dictatorships to make him a snitch:
Lamberto Hernández, despite over two decades of imprisonment and being subjected to inhuman special security regimes — in which he has suffered and endured the unspeakable — has not ceased to fight.
In the early ‘90s, he dedicated himself to bringing pottery from the Isle of Youth to Havana with the intention of reselling it, and thanks to having mastered Portuguese, he became friends with African students. His life passed totally normally until a State Security official approached him intending to propose that he collaborating over some foreign students suspected of being counterrevolutionaries.
His job would be to extract information, and in particular some information about the possible intention to create a political party. If he obtained this information, he should go to the police station at Gerona to send it.
Lamberto, who up to then had had no political inclinations, accepted the proposal and promised to see if he could obtain this information. But his real intention was to shake off the official.
They waited months and after having giving him several warnings to cooperate and understanding that he would not, they decided to act: he was arrested and taken to the police station, where he was charged with theft. They presented it as a complaint from a young person he didn’t know.
Then he learned that it was a 23-year-old who’d been blackmailed because she prostituted herself with foreign students. He didn’t even have a residence permit in that city, and for more proof presented be the defense, on the date of the supposed events he was not in Gerona because he was in Havana. Of course his witnesses were useless.
It was known ahead of time that he was already sentenced (any resemblance to other realities is purely coincidental). From the time of his unjust conviction and entering the penitentiary, he started his activity in the opposition, first claiming his innocence and civil rights, but then his conscience grew and with it his political activism as he circulated through prisons all over the island, seven in total. He met the opponents most representative of the Cuban dissidents, and, like in school, he took in readings and practices and citizenship.
His convictions were growing along his protests about the penalties and those hiding behind common accusations. For this he received beatings and suffered multiple fractures. He undertook several hunger strikes, sometimes the only weapon left to Cuban political prisoner to demand justice, which have left many injuries in his body.
He describes how he bore those years of “special regimes,” especially the first eight, six of them without any family visits.
They kept adding new sentences “for inciting the masses” in prisons, “boycott,” “organizing political activities” in prisons, but all of them dressed up as common crimes to prevent recognizing them as a political prisoner of conscience.
In 2003, state security, in a gesture of desperation, offered for him to serve as an informant and then a witness in the trials of the 75 dissidents arrested in the “Black Spring,” to which, of course, he flatly refused and so he came to be known as prisoners of conscience when he returned to the cell.
Read the whole thing here.