Ana Belen Montes’ Harsh Prison ConditionsMarch 18, 2016 | Print |
Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — Some weeks ago, I wrote and Havana Times published an article titled Ana Belen Montes: A Case of Conscience. In one of the paragraphs dealing with this heroic woman, who has been imprisoned under the most trying conditions one can imagine, I promised to broaden on the subject in a future post.
Ana Belen Montes, former Pentagon intelligence analyst, convicted to 25 years in prison in 2002 for supplying Cuba with information about the United States’ aggressive policies towards the island, has been serving her sentence at the Carswell Federal Medical Center, located in Fort Worth, Texas – a prison offering specialized mental health services (the wing Ana is confined in) to female criminals, in a top-security environment.
According to a report published in 2015, for more than ten years, Ana Belen Montes has endured the following confinement conditions, in frank violation of her human rights:
- “A Federal Prison Bureau decree (due to her espionage conviction) restricting contact to only her closest relatives.
- A prohibition on inquiries about her health or the reasons for her detention in a center for the mentally ill, when she suffers no such condition.
- A prohibition on the receipt of packages.
- Letters sent to her are returned by registered post to the sender.
- She is not allowed associate with other inmates.
- She is not allowed make or receive phone calls.
- She is not allowed read newspapers, magazines or watch TV.
- She is not allowed visits from friends.
- Her family members have, because of her commitment to the cause of Cuba, rejected or refused to maintain contact with her, meaning that Ana has been totally isolated from the world for more than a decade.”
“The US press has reported that “serving a sentence in the Carswell treatment unit has become a death sentence for many female prisoners.” Detainees there have suffered gross violations of their human and constitutional rights, including documented cases of police abuse, suspicious deaths — investigations into which have been blatantly obstructed, deaths due to the denial of basic medical attention, rape of prisoners by guards and exposure to toxic substances, all of which place her life at risk.”
“Ana Belen Montes was not paid by Cuba for what she did and there was nothing sordid or coercive about her recruitment. She was not motivated by any desire for revenge or attraction to
power. Despite full awareness of the personal risk arising, she acted out of love, her sense of justice and a noble solidarity with Cuba. She was accused of having helped convince both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton that Cuba did not represent a military threat to the U.S., thus preventing a war that would have resulted in a significant loss of Cuban and US lives.”
Recently, I was provided with information that indicates Ana Belen Montes’ confinement conditions have changed:
- Ana may receive letters and visits from 20 people (her father passed away before she was imprisoned). Visitors are cleared by the prison or the FBI. One of the mandatory conditions for a visit is to have known Ana before her imprisonment. No one else is allowed to see her. No one has ever interviewed her either.
- The fact 20 people / relatives may visit her does not mean everyone on this list exercises that right. Very few people have visited her over these past few years (perhaps only two or three in total), for reasons that include the remoteness of the facility and others.
- Ana may call her mother once a week and speak with her for 15-20 minutes. She may not receive phone calls.
- Currently, she may read books (sent from bookstores or publishers) and magazines. She may also watch documentaries and CNN.
- Ana is in good physical condition and well-nourished.
- She maintains no relationships with anyone in the prison and is always alone in her cell, where she has been confined for nearly 15 years.
According to this information, provided by the Cuban Committee for the Freedom of Ana Belen Montes, prison conditions are not as extreme as they were for over ten years, when she was being punished more severely for having prevented a direct act of aggression against Cuba through her intelligence efforts. By virtue of the changes that have been taking place between the two countries and understanding this as an attenuating circumstance, Ana Belen Montes should be pardoned.