A prominent Cuban dissident and longtime critic of Cuba’s communist government landed Friday in Spain following a five-year sentence in Cuba.
Yunior Garcia Aguilera, 56, a four-time victim of politically motivated violence, was sentenced by Cuban authorities to 15 years in prison on charges of rebellion, criminal association and initiating an action that compromises national security in 2011.
Related Image Expand / Contract Yunior Garcia Aguilera, right, is embraced by a supporter in Madrid.
The case was characterized by constant attacks on Cuban dissent in both the local and U.S. media, for which Garcia Aguilera was often a target. He and other activists reported on daily life inside Cuba’s system. He also pointed out several serious human rights violations including sham trials and use of blacklists by the Cuban government.
According to his website, on April 4, 2012, Garcia Aguilera used a mobile phone and went to El Pais newspaper in Havana. He had a policy of criticizing any Cuban foreign or domestic minister, a tradition he started after arriving in Spain. In the past, Garcia Aguilera had been invited to the U.S. but rejected offers.
In early 2015, Garcia Aguilera founded an opposition group called “Podemos,” or “We Can,” in Spain.
Reporters Without Borders labeled Garcia Aguilera a “prisoner of conscience” for three years beginning in 2012, and in August 2013, he was cleared of the political charges after 10 months.
Among Garcia Aguilera’s complaints is that the Cuban government refuses to allow him to release videos in Spanish and that it is reluctant to give him permission to post videos on YouTube.
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He has an extensive media profile in Spain, and he frequently accompanies Reporters Without Borders on tours of Spanish journalists. He spoke to Fox News in 2017.
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell and the Spanish embassy in Washington issued statements hailing the arrival of the dissident.
In August 2013, Garcia Aguilera had been freed and received medical treatment on condition that he returned to Cuba for nine months. He was exiled but returned to Spain in September 2014 and continues to reside there.
The case of refugees from Honduras, Costa Rica and Venezuela with political convictions are the only refuges who are not pardoned.
In September 2015, the Cuban government began to execute Garcia Aguilera by refusing to consider appeals of his conviction, and one month later he was again jailed.
– Connect with Jack Sheasby on Twitter @JackSheasby.