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Ninth released Cuban journalist arrives in Spain

Bárzaga Lugo (EPA)

New York, July 15, 2010—Imprisoned Cuban journalist Mijail Bárzaga Lugo was released from jail and flown today to Madrid, where he joined a group of eight of his colleagues freed and brought to Spain this week as part of an extensive release by the Cuban government, according to international press reports.

Bárzaga Lugo, who was arrested in March 2003, arrived in Madrid with his family on an Air Europe flight around 2 p.m. local time, Agence France-Presse reported. On arrival, the journalist was taken to a hotel in Madrid’s neighborhood of Vallecas, where he joined six colleagues released and sent to Spain on Tuesday, and another two who were freed and exiled on Wednesday, the press reports said.

“We are pleased that the protracted suffering of journalist Mijail Bárzaga Lugo and his family has come to an end,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas program senior coordinator. “We urge Cuban authorities to provide accurate and timely information on the promised release of all the remaining imprisoned journalists.”

A reporter for the independent news agency Agencia Noticiosa Cubana before the arrest, Bárzaga was released as part of an agreement between the government of President Raúl Castro and the Catholic Church in Cuba. The church announced last week that the Cuban government had agreed to free a total of 52 dissidents arrested in the March 2003 government crackdown on political dissent and independent journalism that came to be known as the Black Spring..

“These releases brought us great relief, and I hope they open the way to more changes in Cuba,” Bárzaga told CPJ in a phone interview. He also expressed his solidarity with journalists who remain in prison in the island. “Although it is wonderful to be with my family again, I cannot be 100 percent happy knowing that many colleagues are still in jail in Cuba,” Bárzaga added.

Eleven journalists arrested during the 2003 crackdown remain in prison, as does one other journalist who was detained later, CPJ research shows. Neither the government nor the church have yet disclosed information on the remaining releases

Below is a CPJ capsule report on Bárzaga Lugo from CPJ’s annual census of jailed journalists, conducted in December 2009.

Mijaíl Barzaga Lugo, Agencia Noticiosa Cubana

Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Barzaga Lugo, a reporter for the independent news agency Agencia Noticiosa Cubana, was arrested in March 2003 and accused the following month of violating Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy. Cuban authorities handed him a 15-year prison sentence.

Barzaga Lugo was being held at 1580 Prison in the municipality of San Miguel del Padrón, according to Laura Pollán Toledo, a human rights activist and wife of imprisoned journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez. She said the reporter suffered from skin ailments made acute by prison conditions; he did not receive medical treatment for the problem.

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