Freedom House Welcome Release of Czechs From Cuban Jail
Freedom House today welcomed the release of prominent Czech citizens Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik from illegal detention in a Havana jail, where they had been held for more than three weeks on charges of meeting with dissidents to "foment rebellion" and "encourage uprising." Their release comes in the wake of intense international condemnation of, and pressure on, the government of Fidel Castro for the arrests.
"The arrest and detention of Mr. Pilip and Mr. Bubenik represented, at heart, a violation of their human rights," said Freedom House president Adrian Karatnycky. "When people travel, they have a fundamental right to talk with whomever they wish. Freedom House rejects the Castro regime's attempts to criminalize person-to-person contacts, which are a clear violation of international human rights standards."
Mr. Pilip, a former finance and education minister and current deputy in the Czech parliament's lower house, and Mr. Bubenik, a student leader in the 1989 Velvet Revolution and former deputy, were arrested January 12 after meeting with Cuban democratic activists in the central Cuban province of Ciego de Avila. They were accused of working as U.S. agents and engaging in "counter-revolutionary activity," according to Cuba's state controlled newspaper, Granma.
Pilip and Bubenik were released after broad-ranging protests from foreign governments and non-governmental groups. The U.S. government, European governments, and the European Union criticized the arrests and reproached the Cuban government for human rights violations.
The Czech citizens are among hundreds of people each year who seek to reach out to the Cuban people for the purpose of informing them about events outside their country. State-controlled media in Cuba do not allow for the expression and dissemination of alternative viewpoints on the island.
"Freedom House maintains programs throughout the world that promote contacts among democratic activists. One such program focuses on Cuba," said Freedom House executive director Jennifer Windsor. "Such efforts are considered to be a normal activity in most countries. But in Cuba, those engaging in such contacts are subject to harassment and intimidation."
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.