Cuban opposition leader Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antúnez, was released by police on Wednesday after being detained last Saturday in a violent incident at his city of birth, Placetas, in Villa Clara province.
“My first words are to express my thanks to all those persons of good will who, somehow or other, decidedly contributed to my release,” said Antúnez in a statement made available by the Miami-based Directorio Democrático Cubano (Cuban Democratic Board).
On Saturday, Antúnez was arrested, beaten and sprayed with pepper gas in a police jail cell.
The domestic opposition movement and human rights activists had consistently denounced his detention.
Last Thursday, Antúnez participated in a teleconference before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee dealing with the domestic situation in Cuba and the recent acts of harassment against the peaceful opposition.
The U.S. government had demanded Antúnez’s immediate and unconditional release. At a recent press conference in Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland deplored the oppositionist’s arrest.
Criticism has become strongest because Raúl Castro’s government seems to have activated a campaign to block the opposition’s plans to honor political prisoners on the occasion of Fathers’ Day, next Sunday.
In the past 48 hours, the cell phones of several dissidents in Villa Clara and Santiago appeared to have been blocked by the authorities so they could not speak with supporters or journalists.
“These actions highlight once again the repressive nature of the Cuban government, particularly with regard to citizens who peacefully express opposite points of view,” Nuland said. “We shall continue to support the Cuban people in its desire to determine their own future.”
Joining the chorus of figures and personalities in U.S. politics who demanded Antúnez’s release was Senator Bill Nelson. In a letter to the chief of the Cuban Mission in Washington, Jorge Bolaños, the senator asked for an explanation.
“I beg you to determine at once all the facts surrounding this affair and notify my office about Antúnez’s whereabouts and well-being,” Nelson said in his letter.
Antúnez, 46, was released from prison in April 2007 after serving a 17-year sentence for allegedly engaging in enemy propaganda, attempts at sabotage and other crimes punishable by the Cuban penal code.
Two weeks ago in Miami, groups of Cuban exiles showed a documentary that contains testimony from former political prisoners about the coercive methods used by the island’s prisons, and the consistent violation of the immates’ basic rights.
The documentary, titled “Cuba’s Prisons: A Sequence of Terror,” was filmed and edited surreptitiously by members of the Oriental Democratic Alliance (ADO), a coalition of opposition groups in Cuba’s eastern provinces. The documentary included a testimony by Antúnez.