Cuban Engineer Hector Maseda Released from Prison
February 14, 2011 (updated March 31, 2011)
On Friday, February 11, 2011, a spokesperson from Cuba's Roman Catholic Church announced that Cuban engineer Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez had been granted humanitarian parole and would be released from prison, after serving more than 7 years and 10 months of his 20-year prison term. According to press reports that day, Mr. Maseda refused to accept parole and told prison authorities that he would not leave "El Pitirre" Prison, where he was being held, until he was exonerated or pardoned. The following day, five state security officials reportedly escorted him to his home in central Havana. Upon his arrival there, journalists quoted him as saying: I have left prison against my will. I never would have accepted leaving jail on parole.
Mr. Maseda is one of a handful of Cuban dissidents released from prison who have been permitted to remain on the island since it was announced in early July 2010 that over the course of the next four months the Cuban government would release 52 political prisoners. The group had been in jail since 2003, when 75 dissidents were arrested in a widespread crackdown and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. This announcement followed a series of private conversations between President Raúl Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega of the Roman Catholic Church. Over the intervening months, 40 of the 52 men accepted immediate departure for Spain as a condition of their release from prison. Four medical doctors whose cases were undertaken by the CHR--Marcelo Cano Rodríguez, José Luis Garcia Paneque, Luis Milán Fernández, and Ricardo Silva Gual--went into exile with members of their families. Mr. Maseda and Cuban economist Arnaldo Ramos Lauzarique were among a group of a dozen prisoners who refused to agree to release from prison that was conditioned upon leaving the country or was granted as medical parole.
The CHR and the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies undertook Mr. Maseda’s case following his arrest in 2003. More than 65 letters of appeal were sent to the Cuban authorities in Mr. Maseda’s behalf by CHR correspondents and national academies that are members of the H.R. Network.
On March 29, 2011, the CHR received a thank you letter from Mr. Maseda. Below is an excerpt:
… many members of your academies and other national institutions similar to yours, affiliated with the International Human Rights Network, got to know about my case, became concerned, and actively intervened in order to obtain—in a civilized way—improvements in my confinement. For all of those humanitarian actions, I send, from the depths of my heart, my warmest thanks to all of the people who … did everything possible (and impossible) so that my release could become a reality.