Cuban dissidents testify before Congress and win abuse case against police, AP exposes Alan Gross, and Valentine’s Day causes collapse of the mobile phone network.
Dissident decries human rights situation before US Congress; Police punish abuses
Opposition figure Oscar Elías Biscet testified before the US Congress via telephone on 16 February.
Stating, ‘The Cuba I live in is a society full of fear,’ Biscet called on the United States to make the world aware of the grave human rights situation in Cuba.
Biscet was arrested as part of Cuba’s 2003 ‘Black Spring,’ and was sentenced to 25 years in prison where he claims he suffered habitual beatings that left him handicapped and disfigured. He was released in March 2011 due to the intervention of the Catholic Church.
Biscet was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former US President George W. Bush in 2007.
In other news from the opposition, Guillermo Fariñas reported that Cuban police will punish the policeman who threatened to kill him in November 2011.
The policeman, Interior Ministry Major Miguel Morejó Padrón was issued a restraining order to keep away from Fariñas, and will pay a 300 peso fine. He will face jail time if he threatens another dissident.
Fariñas will be permitted to attend Morejó Padrón’s sentencing, which Fariñas says is unprecedented in Cuba. Cuban police are never publicly tried for allegations of abuse, despite accusations of abuse from dissidents. Cuba often counters that their police force is extraordinarily well-trained.
‘This is a blow against impunity,’ Fariñas commented, and urged other dissidents to make their complaints public.
Alan Gross knew of risks in Cuba, says report
An exposé by Desmond Butler of the Associated Press details Alan Gross’ activities in Cuba. Gross was arrested in 2009 for smuggling satellite telephone equipment to Cuba’s small Jewish community as an independent contractor for the US Agency for International Development.
He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for seeking to ‘undermine the integrity and independence’ of Cuba.
Though Gross claimed at the time he was a ‘trusting fool’ who was not fully aware of the risks involved, the report claims otherwise, saying Gross repeatedly told colleagues of the dangers involved, and even admitted ‘The detection of satellite signals will be catastrophic.’
The report also offers more in-depth details of his activities.
Valentine’s Day call volume cause collapse of mobile phone system
Finally, the high call and text volume on Valentine’s Day caused Cuba’s mobile phone operator Cubacel to collapse for a few hours on 14 February.
From Tuesday morning until the early afternoon, Cubans were unable to communicate via mobile phone, reports government site Cubadebate.
The collapse comes two weeks after reduced mobile phone rates were introduced on 1 February, which was reported by Pulsamérica. Authorities believe that may have contributed to the situation.