Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Their Ángel becomes their devil, or Saturn devours another of its children

Who is Ángel Santiesteban & why is he going to prison today? 

Ángel Santiesteban Prats is an award-winning Cuban writer and member of the official Cuban Writer's Union (UNEAC) who has become increasingly critical in his writings and on his blog, ‘The Children Nobody Wanted’ (‘Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso’) over the past decade, focusing on the lack of fundamental freedoms in Cuba.

He was convicted late last year on trumped up charges based on coerced testimonies of "trespassing" and "injury." In fact, he is being targeted with a five-year prison sentence because the Cuban government wants to use his case to send a chilling message to his artist and intellectual peers:

The Revolution does not forgive or forget its "children" - especially those whom it has praised and prized - who turn their backs on "all that" and begin to think for themselves. 

To add your name to the petition demanding his release, GO HERE.

Yesterday, there were just over 200 signatures, today there are 788!  Let's send Ángel a strong message of support and let the Cuban government know that we are watching!

The important facts of his case - all corroborated below - are these:
  • He was variously charged or accused of having run over a child. When no child -- dead or alive -- could be found, they had to drop that charge. 
  • He was charged with raping his ex-wife. She later retracted saying State Security threatened her and made her accuse him. 
  • He was charged with beating his ex-wife; she and the neighbor who supposedly saw her after she was beaten both recanted, the neighbor on video to which there's a link below. 
  • He was told what his sentence was going to be by a State Security agent while assaulting him, before the trial (a photo of his bloodied shirt after the beating is below). 
  • Charges carrying 54 (or 154, accounts vary) years were largely dropped and he was ultimately convicted of "trespassing" and "injury" and sentenced to 5 years, which he is to begin serving today. 
  • In what has become a hashtag phrase, evidence against him at the trial included his handwriting -- "oddly slanted" and "too big". 

People ask why would the government single him out? Why do they hate him so much to do this to him? The answer is simple: Turncoats are hated most of all. He's won nearly every important national literature prize, at least one twice. He's won prizes abroad. He's been sent to conferences abroad. He was "their" writer, a favorite son on their side against the world. And he turned on them. They hate him and those ungrateful children like him with a special revolutionary hatred.

To add your name to the petition demanding his release, GO HERE.

* * *

These two links (here and here) provide background on irregularities in his case.

Here is a link to the YouTube video of one of his accusers recanting.

Ángel's own reports about his trial: Solitude, Location Uncertain, and Crime of the Ángel.

In the following post Ángel describes how: (1) His HANDWRITING was considered evidence against him, because of its "slant and suspicious size", and (2) How a member of State Security informed him of his sentence BEFORE his trial was held.

Ángel's own reports of his recent arrest and detention.

To add your name to the petition demanding his release, GO HERE.

A Brief summary of Santiesteban's case:
Ángel Santiesteban Prats, award-winning writer and author of the blog ‘The Children Nobody Wanted’ (‘Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso’), is set today to begin serving five years in prison for alleged "assault" and "trespassing." The case dates back to 2009, when a number of charges were filed against him, including charges of a hit and run and aggravated robbery. He was eventually found guilty in a highly questionable court proceeding of having broken into his ex-wife’s house and physically assaulted her; all of the other charges were dropped. His sentence was handed down on 8 December 2012 and confirmed on appeal by the Supreme Court on 28 January.

Santiesteban maintains that the charges are fabricated and politically motivated, retribution for his blog which is critical of the Cuban situation and government. He also claims that he was informed of what the outcome of the trial would be on 8 November 2012, one month before the sentencing took place, when he was arrested along with Yoani Sánchez, Antonio Rodiles, and 13 others following the detention of lawyer Yaremis Flores Julián, and then beaten.

Details of the case against Santiesteban have not been made public in state media. However, according to the appeal lodged by his lawyer, there were a number of irregularities in the trial and sentencing. The plaintiff is said to have changed her statement four times and overall her testimony was inconsistent with the crimes of which Santiesteban was eventually found guilty.

A supposed eyewitness for the plaintiff allegedly later confessed in a home video that he had been pressured and bribed by the plaintiff to lie, but this was reportedly discarded by the court. A number of important witnesses in Santiesteban’s defence are said to have been overlooked, including three individuals who testified that he was not at the scene at the time that the crimes are alleged to have taken place, and the headmistress at his son’s school, who stated that the boy had confessed to her that his mother had forced him to make statements incriminating his father. The two-year sentence for trespassing is reportedly a year above the maximum one year penalty for such an offence.

Sanitesteban is a member of the official Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba – UNEAC). He has won a number of awards, including the Juan Rudolfo Prize from Radio France International (1989), National Prize from UNEAC (1995), Cesar Galeano award (1999), Alejo Carpentier Prize from the Cuban Book Institute for his short story collection Los hijos que nadie quiso (2001) and the Casa de las Américas Prize for his book Dichosos los que lloran (2006).

To add your name to the petition demanding his release, GO HERE.

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