Blind Cuban Human Rights Activist Faces Up to Six Years in Prison for 'Resisting Authority'

Friday, September 6, 2002

Juan Carlos, a blind Christian human rights activist imprisoned since March 2002 has learned that he could face up to six years in prison.

His wife Maritza has been told that he will be charged with 'acts of disrespect towards Fidel Castro, public disorder, resisting authority, and disobedience', according to the Coalition of Cuban American Women. The prosecutor's office in Ciego de Avila is recommending that he be given a six-year prison sentence.

Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, President of both the Cuban Human Rights Foundation and the Brotherhood of the Independent Blind People of Cuba, was arrested along with several other human rights activists on March 5 in Ciego de Avila.

He was severely beaten by government security agents and suffered a blow to the head, which required four stitches. Juan Carlos and a number of other human rights activists had gathered at a local hospital in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of a journalist who had been admitted there after being attacked by Cuban police.

Juan Carlos, 27, was transferred to the State Security Facility in Holguin Province, making it extremely difficult and expensive for his family and lawyer to visit him. He has been held there for over five months without being charged and he has repeatedly accused the Cuban government of psychological torture and withholding of medical treatment.

He has been denied the right to keep his cane, glasses and a Braille Bible. According to written declarations by Gonzalez, his health has suffered drastically and he fears for his life. His wife has also received threats for relaying his declarations to the international community.

CSW met with Juan Carlos, who is also a lawyer and an active member of the Baptist Church, last February in Havana. At the time Gonzalez spoke of his hope for the future of human rights and democracy in Cuba.

CSW continues to call for the immediate release of Gonzalez and his fellow human rights activists. The other imprisoned men include five human rights defenders, Delio Laureano Requejo, Lázaro Iglesias Estrada, Virgilio Mantilla Arango, Enrique García Morejón, and Antonio García Morejón, and two independent journalists, Léxter Téllez Castro and Carlos Brizuela Yera.

In a letter from Gonzalez dated July 23, he said: "Politics are not my concern, I only obey orders given to me by God, that is, raise my voice, my arms and give all my heart to defend the indispensable human rights. I do not know what will become of me but I have placed myself in the Hands of God, prepared to die with love this very instant."

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said, "The international community cannot stand silently by while Juan Carlos is sentenced to six years in prison for his brave stand on human rights. We call on the European Union and the UK government to continue to press for Juan Carlos's release."

The English translation of the text of Juan Carlos's July 23rd letter follows.

For more information or a photo of Juan Carlos, contact Richard Chilvers at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8949 0587 or 020 8942 8810 or email