Summary and Current Status
On July 22, 2010, after serving more than 7 years of his 10-year prison term, Cuban medical doctor Ricardo Silva Gual was released from prison and flown to Spain with members of his family.
Dr. Silva was arrested on March 18, 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. Silva, as prisoners of conscience.
Ricardo Silva Gual is a medical doctor by profession and a member of both the Christian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación) and the Citizen’s Promotion Committee of the Varela Project (Comité Ciudadano Gestores del Proyecto Varela) in his hometown of Palma Soriano in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. For several years prior to his arrest he reportedly had suffered a number of forms of harassment as a result of his peaceful activities.
Dr. Silva was arrested on March 18, 2003. He was brought to trial shortly thereafter, convicted under “Law 88 for the Protection of the National Independence and Economy of Cuba,” and sentenced to 10 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.”
During his imprisonment, Dr. Silva reportedly was held in several different prison facilities. Initially, Dr. Silva was sent to the Chafarina provincial prison in Guantánamo. At some point, he was transferred to the maximum security Boniato Prison in Santiago de Cuba, where, he reportedly carried out a hunger strike from January 13 until February 5, 2005, to protest his ill-treatment by prison authorities. Reports indicate that Dr. Silva alleged that prison guards had encouraged other inmates to harass him. Dr. Silva eventually was transferred to Aguadores Prison in Santiago de Cuba. While in this facility, prison authorities reportedly respected his refusals to wear a prison uniform, salute Cuban military personnel, or participate in the penal system’s re-education program.
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. Two weeks later, Dr. Silva was released from prison and flown to Spain, together with several of his family members. According to press accounts, Dr. Silva complained to Cuban authorities that he was not permitted to travel to Santiago de Cuba to say goodbye to his parents prior to departure. His release reportedly was conditioned upon his immediate departure for Spain, which had agreed to accept the prisoners and their families.
Upon his arrival in Spain, Dr. Silva is quoted as saying, “I have to think about redirecting my life here and try to bring up my son, something I have not been able to do all these years.” His son was born in 2003, at the time of Dr. Silva’s arrest.