Amnesty International declares Cuba graffiti artist a prisoner of conscience

Tue Sep 29, 2015 7:35pm EDT
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By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Amnesty International on Tuesday declared a Cuban graffiti artist as the country's only prisoner of conscience, demanding the release of a man held for "disrespect of the leaders of the revolution" over a satire of Fidel and Raul Castro.

Danilo Maldonado, 32 and known as "El Sexto," has been held since December for painting "Fidel" and "Raul" on the backs of a pair of pigs in apparent reference to former leader Fidel Castro and his brother and current president, Raul Castro, Amnesty said in a statement.

"We are declaring him a prisoner of conscience. At the moment, he is the only prisoner of conscience in Cuba. However, we are evaluating a number of other cases," said Josefina Salomon, a spokeswoman for the human rights group.

The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officially, the government maintains it does not have any political prisoners, and characterizes Cuba's small but vocal dissident community as mercenaries paid by U.S. interests to destabilize the government.

In conjunction with detente reached with the United States last Dec. 17, Cuba released 53 prisoners that the U.S. government had considered political.

But Maldonado was detained eight days later when police discovered the animals in the trunk of his taxi before he intended to display them in a Christmas Day art show, Amnesty said.

He has been on a hunger strike since Sept. 8, Amnesty said.

"He has been held for a long time in a high security prison, without formal charges and without trial," said Elizardo Sanchez, leader of the dissident Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation.   Continued...

Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado holds his daughter during a photo exhibition in Havana, in this picture taken April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer