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Latino Daily News

Saturday October 6, 2012

30 Hours After Being Held in Custody, Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez Finally Released

30 Hours After Being Held in Custody, Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez Finally Released

Photo: Yoani Sanchez

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Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, her husband and another independent journalist were released after more than 24 hours in custody and are back in the Cuban capital, Sanchez said on Twitter.

“We’ve just been freed!! 30 hours under arrest and many stories to tell,” the author of the Generacion Y blog wrote Friday.

Sanchez, husband Reinaldo Escobar and Agustin Lopez were arrested Thursday afternoon while en route to the eastern city of Bayamo to cover the trial of Spanish political activist Angel Carromero, accused of negligent homicide for the deaths of dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a car accident.

“We’ve been freed! Thanks to all of you for raising your voice and for your tweets so that we’d return home,” the acclaimed blogger said.

She said that during her detention she “refused to eat or drink any liquid” and “the first glass of water I drank when I got home was like fire in the esophagus.”

Sanchez wrote Saturday on her blog that she and the other two independent journalists believed the Communist Party daily Granma when it said the trial was open to the public, but added that “as you know, Granma lies.”

She said that while in custody she repeated a single phrase for more than three hours: “I demand that you allow me to make a telephone call. It’s my right.”

Finally, on Friday morning, she was allowed to place a call and spoke a few words with her father “over a line that was obviously tapped.”

Sanchez said Thursday on Twitter that she was planning to travel from her home in Havana to Bayamo, a city 750 kilometers (465 miles) east of Havana where Carromero was tried on Friday.

The trial concluded after 11 hours and Carromero is awaiting the verdict. Prosecutors asked the Granma provincial court for a seven-year prison sentence.

The 27-year-old leader of a youth group in Spain’s governing conservative Popular Party, Carromero was at the wheel for a July car crash that killed prominent dissident Oswaldo Paya and another government opponent, Harold Cepero.

Cuban authorities blame the accident on excessive speed and the driver’s failure to heed warning signs about road construction. They say the car was going 120 kph (nearly 75 mph) along a stretch of highway where the speed limit was 60 kph (around 37 mph).

Carromero repeated in court the statement he made during the investigation that he was driving at a speed of between 80 and 90 kph (50 and 56 mph).

And he again admitted that “unfortunately” he lost control of the car upon entering a stretch of road full of potholes and road work and it crashed into a tree.

Yoani Sanchez is known for her harsh criticism of Cuba’s Communist government and for bringing attention to daily hardships on the island.

Cuban authorities say she is part of a group of “cybernetic counterrevolutionaries manufactured” by the United States, while pro-government bloggers frequently label her a “fraud” and a “mercenary.”

The honors conferred on the blogger and philologist include Spain’s Ortega y Gasset prize for digital journalism in 2008 and a Maria Moors Cabot award from New York’s Columbia University in 2009.

Sanchez has since been awarded other honors and been invited to attend congresses and other events, but she has not been able to receive the prizes in person because the Cuban government has repeatedly denied her an exit visa.

The spokesman for the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, told Efe that Yoani and her two colleagues were taken to their homes “under arrest” by the political police.

He also said that, based on a preliminary count, they are among a group of between eight and 12 activists and dissidents who were detained prior to the start of Carromero’s trial.