Cuban dissident Oscar Biscet is released after 8 years in prison
Posted on Friday, 03.11.11
Cuba's best-known dissident says he'll continue to fight the government
after eight years in prison.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
Cuba's government Friday freed Oscar Elias Biscet, a leading dissident
who served more than 11 years in prison and was awarded the U.S.
Presidential Medal of Freedom for his steadfast advocacy of peaceful
opposition to the communist system.
"I am not going to say that I will continue in the opposition, because
in jail I never stopped fighting against this government and the abuses
it commits," Biscet told the AFP news agency in Havana.
The 49-year-old black doctor was serving a 25-year prison sentence for
"acts against the sovereignty and independence of the national
territory" under the notorious Law 88 of 1999, also known as the Gag Law.
Biscet founded the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy, and
has been active in a Christian-based campaign that opposes Cuba's use of
the drug Rivanol for late-term abortions.
His steadfast criticism of the Cuban government, calls for peaceful
civil isobedience and quiet manner have won him praise in and out of
Cuba, as well as the 2007 Medal of Freedom awarded by President George
Biscet told the AFP that three state security agents had delivered him
to his home in the Lawton neighborhood of Havana and to his wife, Elsa
Morejón. Calls to his home telephone number rang busy for hours Friday
Biscet's imminent freedom was announced Thursday by the office of
Cardenal Jaime Ortega, Catholic archbishop of Havana, as part of a broad
release of political prisoners that he announced last July 7 after a
meeting with Cuban ruler Raúl Castro.
Ortega announced that Castro had agreed to free the last 52 dissidents
still in prison from a harsh crackdown in 2003 that sentenced 75
dissidents, including Biscet, to prison terms of up to 28 years after a
string of one-day or less trials.
Forty were released by the Nov. 7 deadline after they agreed to go
directly from prison to exile in Spain. But Biscet and 11 others refused
to leave the country and were kept in prison beyond the deadline. Only
three remained in prison as of Friday.
Cuba also has released another 50 or so other prisoners who were
included in lists of ''political prisoners'' because they were convicted
of "counterrevolutionary'' crimes, but were accused of violent acts such
as hijacking boats or airplanes.
Biscet was arrested 27 times between February 1998 and November 1999 —
usually for short periods but sometimes in punishment cells — for his
early opposition activities, according to Morejón's count.
He was sentenced to three years in prison in 1999 on charges of public
disorder for staging a peaceful march through Havana days before an
IberoAmerican summit of heads of state and government from Spanish and
Biscet served the full three years in a high-security prison in the
eastern city of Holguín — where Morejón faced harsh transportation
difficulties to visit him — and was released in November 2002.
Just 37 days later, he was arrested again and was tried in April with
the 74 other dissidents rounded up during Cuba's so-called "Black
Spring." Also convicted in his half-day trial were Angel Moya, (20
years), Orlando Fundora (18) and Miguel Valdés (15).
After the trial, Morejón told reporters that Biscet's "only crime is to
honor the Universal Declaration for Human Rights in his own country."
The sentences handed down to the 75 dissidents totaled 1,454 years.