For Immediate Release: December 6, 2006
New York, NY – Human Rights First welcomes the release of Cuban activist and independent librarian Héctor Palacios Ruíz on December 6, 2006. Palacios is 65 years old and his health has been deteriorating since he was detained during a crackdown on civil society in March 2003 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The Cuban authorities released Palacios on medical parole, meaning they could re-detain him at any time. Of the 75 arrested in March 2003, 16 have now been released on medical parole; 59 of those arrested during the crackdown remain in prison, including independent journalists José Luis García Paneque and Normando Hernández González, both of whom are in poor health.
Since his arrest, Human Rights First and its supporters sent thousands of appeals to the Cuban government, calling for Palacios’ release.
Palacios was an active organizer for the Varela Project, a nonviolent civic initiative calling for democratic reforms, and an independent librarian. Independent librarians in Cuba provide access to books that are banned by the authorities, including works by George Orwell and Dr. Martin Luther King.Human Rights First hails Palacios’ release, but calls for all charges against the peaceful activist to be dropped. The organization also urges the Cuban authorities to release all of the prisoners held since the March 2003 crackdown, and to cease the practice of imprisoning those who speak out peacefully for basic rights and freedoms and an end to human rights violations in Cuba.