Posted on Thursday, 09.03.09
U.S. judge awards jailed journalist's mom $27.5 million
BY FRANCES ROBLES
A Miami federal judge ordered the Cuban government and its Communist
Party on Wednesday to pay $27.5 million to the ailing mom of a political
prisoner on the island, believed to be the first time U.S. courts have
awarded damages to the kin of a living political prisoner.
Omar Rodríguez Saludes, former director of Cuba's Nueva Prensa news
agency, is 43 and serving a 27-year sentence. His crime: riding around
Havana on a bike with a camera around his neck, snapping photos of
things the Cuban government preferred remain in the dark.
He was one of 75 dissidents rounded up in 2003 and sentenced to the
longest term. His mother, Olivia Saludes, of Kentucky, sued the Cuban
government for pain and suffering under the Alien Tort Claims Act.
Saludes said her son was subjected to inhumane treatment, including
substandard food that still had animal hair and skin on it. Her grief
left her ill and unable to work, according to her suit.
“I have no doubt that the acts of the Cuban government are intended to
oppress those in Cuba who seek to freely voice their opinions and ensure
the suffering of their families, and that punitive damage award of
sufficient magnitude is needed to serve as a deterrent against similar
acts in the future,'' U.S. District Court Judge Alan Gold wrote. He
ordered the government to pay $2.5 million in compensatory damages and
the Communist Party to pay $25 million in punitive damages — more than
double what lawyers had requested.
“This type of systematic torture, abuse of due process was so great —
an arrest without trial, horrible prison conditions, rats — and was so
shocking to the conscience of the court that the court felt that $27.5
million was necessary to send a message to the Communist Party of Cuba
and the entire international community,'' said attorney Pedro
“Cuba has a lot of debtors in this country,'' Martínez-Fraga said. “I
will ask debtors to satisfy this judgment before they send Cuba another
The Cuban government did not respond to the suit.
U.S. judge awards jailed journalist's mom $27.5 million – Cuba –
MiamiHerald.com (3 September 2009)