Independent Cuban Journo Gets 15 Months For Covering Protest

By: E&P Staff After spending a year in jail without charges, independent Cuban journalist Armando Betancourt Reina was sentenced to a 15-month prison sentence last week after a five-hour trial on charges of "public disorder," the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported.

CPJ, citing an interview with Betancourt Reina's wife Mercedes Boudet Silva and other family members, said the charges stemmed from his coverage of a May 23, 2006 protest against the eviction of several people in Camaguey. Local police arrested him at the site, accusing him of participating in the protest, which his family denies.

Since then, he had been held without charge in a Camaguey prison, CPJ said.

Betancourt Reina, a reporter for the independent news agency Nueva Prensa Cubana, will be credited for time served, his wife told a Miami-based Web site that follows Cuban affairs.

"It is outrageous that Armando Betancourt Reina should have spent more than a year in prison without charge for reporting on a story that the
authorities did not want covered," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement. "It is doubly outrageous that he should now be convicted on a bogus charge and sentenced to 15 months in jail. He should be released immediately."

Cuba is holding 25 independent journalists behind bars, nearly all of them since a crackdown in March 2003.


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