Cuba: Amnesty International calls for release of two San Isidro prisoners of conscience

A report by Duncan Tucker for Amnesty International.

Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and academic Anamely Ramos González are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely because of their consciously held beliefs, and should be granted immediate access to communication with the outside world and released, said Amnesty International today.

The two members of the San Isidro Movement of artists and activists were detained, along with other members of the group, late last night or early this morning, following a police raid on their headquarters in Old Havana. While most of those detained were taken to their homes and, according to information Amnesty International was able to gather, are under surveillance, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Anamely Ramos González are being held incommunicado, without access to communication with the outside world and the grounds for their detention unknown.What kind of state tries to crush ideas by ruthlessly robbing people of their right to free expression? Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

According to Cuba’s official newspaper, the authorities conducted the raid due to violations of alleged COVID-19 related health protocols.

Members of the movement had been hunger striking in recent days and calling for the release of another member of the group, Denis Solís González, who was sentenced to eight months for “contempt,” a crime inconsistent with international human rights standards which means he should be immediately released.

“These activists might be irreverent, they might be criticising the authorities in a way that is uncomfortable for them, and they have generated huge international attention this week with their peaceful activism and use of social media, but what kind of state tries to crush ideas by ruthlessly robbing people of their right to free expression?” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International previously named Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a leader in the movement opposing Decree 349, a dystopian law that stands to censor artists, a prisoner of conscience in March. At the time of last night’s detention, he was carrying out a hunger strike.

According to information from the NGO Cubalex, when authorities detained Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara after the raid they refused to let him return to the movement’s headquarters, where he lives and his whereabouts is now unknown.

Anamely Ramos González, an academic, was seen just minutes before police detained her in a Facebook livestream. While she was also initially detained during the raid, and then released to her home under apparent surveillance, she was detained a second time when she tried to leave her home early on the morning of 27 November.

Background information

Amnesty International has previously expressed concern that Decree 349 is likely to have a general chilling effect on artists in Cuba, preventing them from carrying out their legitimate work for fear of reprisals.

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