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Case Information: Marcelo Cano Rodríguez
Marcelo Cano
PROFESSION:Medical Doctor
DATE OF ARREST:March 25, 2003

Summary and Current Status

On August 17, 2010, after serving more than 7 years of his 18-year prison term, Cuban medical doctor Marcelo Cano Rodríguez was released from prison and flown to Spain with members of his family.

Dr. Cano was arrested on March 25, 2003, after he engaged in peaceful political activities as a dissident. He was one of 75 Cubans who were arrested, summarily tried, and convicted as part of a massive crackdown by the Cuban government. Amnesty International adopted all of these individuals, including Dr. Cano, as prisoners of conscience.
Marcelo Cano Rodríguez is the founder and national coordinator of the unofficial Cuban Independent Medical Association (Colegio Médico Independiente de Cuba). He is also a member of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN, Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional). Neither of these organizations is recognized by the Cuban government.
Dr. Cano was arrested on March 25, 2003, in the city of Las Tunas, in eastern Cuba, reportedly while he was visiting the home of Dr. José Luis García Paneque who had been arrested several days earlier. That same afternoon, Dr. Cano’s home in Havana reportedly was searched by more than a dozen state security officials who confiscated medicines.
On April 3, 2003, Dr. Cano was brought to trial together with five other dissidents.  (The CHR also adopted the cases of some of Dr. Cano’s co-defendants, including economist Oscar Manuel Espinosa Chepe and Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez.)  During his trial, the prosecution cited, as evidence against Dr. Cano, his work with the CCDHRN—particularly his visits with and distribution of medicine to political prisoners and their families—and his ties to the international organization, Doctors without Borders. On April 6, 2003, he was convicted by the People’s Provincial Court of the city of Havana—under “Law 88 for the Protection of the National Independence and Economy of Cuba” and Article 91 of the Cuban Penal Code—and sentenced to 18 years in prison.  Law 88 imposes up to 20 years in prison on anyone who is found guilty of committing “acts that in agreement with imperialist interests are aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroy its political, economic and social system.”  Article 91 of the Cuban Penal Code stipulates that “he who, in the interest of a foreign state, commits an act with the objective of damaging the independent or territorial integrity of the Cuban State, incurs the penalty of ten to twenty years imprisonment or death.”
The legal proceedings against Dr. Cano and his co-defendants failed to meet international fair trial standards in a number of ways.  Their trial, in which summary procedures were used, reportedly lasted less than 15 hours and included 3 court recesses that totaled 4 hours.  It began at 10 a.m. on April 3 and ended at 4:30 a.m. on April 4.  The trial was not public.
Initially, Dr. Cano was held at the Ciego de Avila provincial prison (known as “Canaleta”). At some point during his first year of imprisonment, he was transferred to Ariza provincial prison in the city of Cienfuegos, approximately 250 kilometers from this home in Havana. The exact date of this transfer is unknown. During his incarceration, it was a hardship—in terms of both time and money—for his family members to travel a considerable distance to visit him in prison.
On July 8, 2010, following conversations between Cuban President Raúl Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega of the Roman Catholic Church and during a visit by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to the island, an announcement was made that over the course of the next 4 months the Cuban government would release from prison all 52 men who remained in prison from the original group of 75 mentioned in the summary section above. On August 17, 2010, Dr. Cano was released from prison and flown to Spain, together with several of his family members. His release reportedly was conditioned upon his immediate departure for Spain, which had agreed to accept the prisoners and their families.
Related Links

Four Cuban Colleagues Released; Three Remain in Prison (8/24/10)

Cuban Prisoners of Conscience Released; Others Expected to Be Freed Shortly (7/15/10)

Eight Cuban Colleagues Remain Imprisoned (3/8/05)

Continued Imprisonment of 8 Cuban Colleagues (12/1/04)