Cubans arrest U.S. human rights lawyer in Havana, activists say

Cuban government arrests U.S. lawyer, punk rocker defending artist in prison

Kimberley Motley - COURTESY OF HRF

MIAMI – Human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley was arrested in Havana, Cuba on Friday, according to the Human Rights Foundation.

Motley, a mother of three, was in Havana advocating for artist Danilo "El Sexto" Maldonado, 33, who was arrested Nov. 26, according to his mother and his fiancée Alexandra Martinez. 

When Motley was arrested, police officers also arrested punk rock artist Gorki Aguila and Luis Alberto Mariño, a political activist from the group Cuba Decides, according to the Human Rights Foundation.

Motley, a former Milwaukee public defender, started her career as an international litigator when she joined a U.S. Justice Department program to train lawyers in Afghanistan.

The former beauty queen, whose dad is an African-American U.S. airman and mom is Korean, has been described as feisty. 

Her tough-as-nails personality was evident in the "Motley's Law" documentary. The Danish film, now property of Al Jazeera America, premiered in Chicago and won the Grand Jury Prize at the DOC NYC film festival in 2015.

Motley's clients include The New York Times, and she has also worked in the United Arab Emirates, Ghana and Uganda. 

Motley's client in Havana, Maldonado, was among those arrested after they celebrated Fidel Castro's death Nov. 25. Cuban police officers ordered bars and nightclubs to stop celebrations during the nine days of mourning. 

Martinez, who lives in Miami and recently traveled to Havana, said on Thursday that she had confirmation that Maldonado was at El Combinado del Este high-security prison.

The whereabouts of Motley, Aguila and Mariño were unknown Friday night. Human Rights Foundation President Thor Halvorssen referred to Motley's arrest as an "outrageous abuse."

Kimberley Motley's 2014 TedTalk


About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.

Liane Morejon is an Emmy-winning reporter who joined the Local 10 News family in January 2010. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Liane has a unique perspective on covering news in her own backyard.