NEW YORK — Human Rights Foundation (HRF) welcomes the release of Cuban artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, after two months in a maximum security prison in Havana for spray painting a reference to Fidel Castro’s death.

Jan 21, 2017

HRF calls once again on Cuba’s dictatorial government to drop all criminal charges against him and provide guarantees that it will cease harassing and detaining him arbitrarily for exercising his right to freedom of expression.

“El Sexto was subjected to two months of daily psychological torture because he refused to fake sadness upon the death of one of the most brutal and longest-ruling dictators in Western history,” said Thor Halvorssen. “They cut his hair, they poisoned his food with sedatives, they stripped him naked, and they continuously threatened him with execution by firing squad, all of which had Maldonado extremely distressed psychologically,” he added.

On the night of Fidel Castro’s death, El Sexto spray painted “Se fue” (in English, “He's gone”) on a wall outside the iconic Hotel Habana Libre. He also uploaded a video to Facebook mocking the dictator’s passing. He was arrested the following morning on November 26, 2016.

The state security agents who dragged him out of his home to prison did not carry an arrest warrant. El Sexto was held in solitary confinement from December 9 to December 12, where he was kept naked and without food. On December 14, Danilo was transferred to El Combinado del Este, Havana’s most notorious maximum security prison, where inhuman and degrading treatment increased with repeated threats that he would be executed by firing squad.

On December 12, HRF submitted an individual complaint to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), requesting that they initiate proceedings to investigate El Sexto’s arbitrary arrest and ongoing detention.

Upon his liberation today, El Sexto’s family published a statement thanking Human Rights Foundation, including international legal associate Centa B. Rek and HRF partner Kimberley Motley, from Motley Legal, for playing an instrumental part in securing his release.

“We have not been given any formal explanations on why Danilo was freed, but we believe it is because, four days ago, the Geneva-based United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) communicated to the Cuban government that it had received and was reviewing a legal petition to issue a formal opinion declaring Danilo's detention illegal under international law. The UNWGAD communication to the Cuban state requesting a prompt response by the government, was the result of a formal request that the Human Rights Foundation in New York submitted on December 12 on behalf of Danilo and his family,” said El Sexto’s family in a public statement.

Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

Read HRF’s legal petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention here.

Read Danilo Maldonado’s full statement after his release here.

Contact: Prachi Vidwans, (212) 246-8486, [email protected].