Exiled Cuban dissident is harassed by police, grandson says

Written by Staff Writer by Chris Parsons, CNN

This story has been updated.

The elderly dissident who received death threats from the Cuban government is facing police harassment, his grandson said Monday.

Carlos Freire, a dual US-Cuban citizen, filed a request in April with the US Justice Department for political asylum after receiving death threats from the Cuban government, according to his grandson.

Freire was arrested on July 26 after he was pulled over by Cuban authorities, then released due to insufficient evidence, his grandson said. Freire called his release a “set-up.”

Carlos Freire’s grandson said he’s received disturbing calls from authorities demanding an explanation about what he’s doing.

The 69-year-old, dubbed a “revolutionary icon” by activists, is a prominent critic of the Cuban government and has been part of demonstrations where dissidents denounce the country’s communist system. The government routinely detains dissidents.

Freire was sentenced to 18 years for inciting rebellion in 1983 and in 2011 was given a three-year suspended sentence.

“I have enough evidence to make a complaint against the Cuban government,” Freire’s grandson, Giovanni, told CNN. “Cuba has violated my grandfather’s human rights several times before and continues to violate them.”

A statue of Jose Marti, one of Cuba’s greatest liberation fighters, stands in the centre of Havana. Credit: STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Freire, a frequent critic of the Cuban government on social media, was at the center of the “Golden Generation of Detentions,” named by a Cuban human rights group that tracks the detentions. After the group formed, Freire was frequently singled out for arrest and detention.

Freire’s grandson said his grandfather, a prominent critic of the Cuban government, was beaten by the Cuban government, severely had to have his hip replaced and is in pain from a broken leg he sustained in November.

Police have detained Carlos Freire frequently. Credit: AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

The family has received disturbing calls from authorities demanding an explanation about what he’s doing, Giovanni Freire said. The calls have increased in frequency in recent weeks.

The grandson asked the US government to intervene in Freire’s case, which has been passed from one US government official to another, but has yet to hear back.

His family fears Freire, who says he spends most of his days hunkered down in his home, may not have any option but to go to another country.

A Cuban official was not immediately available for comment.

The US government has not issued any visa to Freire, and does not have a firm policy on granting asylum to people who use Cuban soil to criticize the Cuban government. The issue has a long history of disagreement between the two countries.

Freire has traveled to the US to meet with US politicians including Senator Marco Rubio, who believes Freire should be able to stay in the US.

The US tightened travel restrictions to Cuba in 2016, making it more difficult for Americans to visit the country, and also expanded sanctions over human rights.

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