Independent Cuban journalist jailed for mistreating her grown daughter released pending appeal

By Will Weissert, AP
Monday, May 10, 2010

Cuba frees backer of dissident group amid appeal

HAVANA — An independent Cuban journalist with ties to the Ladies in White dissident group has been freed as she appeals a 20-month sentence for allegedly mistreating her adult daughter.

Dania Garcia, who uses U.S. websites to report on everyday Cuban life in defiance of government controls on all media, was released Friday, according to her blog and the Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders.

Elizardo Sanchez, head of the independent, Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, had reported Garcia was arrested April 20 and sentenced three days later after her daughter filed a complaint — apparently angry at her mother’s criticism of the Castro government.

Sanchez was away from the office he runs from his home and could not be reached for comment Monday. He said previously that he suspected, but could not prove, Garcia was targeted for being a supporter of the “Damas de Blanco,” or Ladies in White.

Reporters Without Borders said the official charge against Garcia was “abuse of authority” for throwing her 23-year-old daughter out of her home.

The group also called for the release of 25 other independent journalists that it said are imprisoned in Cuba. Cuban authorities dismiss Reporters Without Borders as a front for Washington and its antagonistic policies toward the island.

Garcia writes for dissident and opposition websites including Primavera Digital and CubaNet. She also runs a blog,, which Reporters Without Borders said is “linked to a radical anti-Castro group based in Miami.” The site is blocked in Cuba.

She is not a formal member but supports the Ladies in White, comprising wives and mothers of 75 community organizers, independent journalists and political opposition activists who were arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2003. Fifty-three remain behind bars.

Cuba’s government claims those imprisoned conspired with the U.S. government to topple the island’s communist system, charges that both they and American officials deny.

Nearly every Sunday for seven years, the Ladies in White have marched down a sidewalk along Fifth Avenue in Havana’s well-to-do Miramar district, usually without incident. But in March, the group held a week of demonstrations in other parts of the city, which provoked protests by government supporters.

Then, last month, carefully organized pro-government demonstrators working shifts shouted down the women and blocked their weekly march three Sundays in a row. The Cuban Roman Catholic Church negotiated a settlement with the government that allowed the demonstration to go forward each of the last two weeks, but only if the women did not deviate from their traditional route.

About 60 women marched peacefully down Fifth Avenue on Sunday, the largest such demonstration in years.

Sanchez’s commission says Cuba holds about 200 political prisoners. The government claims it holds none and protects human rights better than most countries by providing citizens with free health care and education as well as subsidized housing, utilities, transportation and basic food on monthly ration books.

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