U.S. human rights lawyer tells Cubans in interrogation 'I don't work for the government'

Lawyer representing jailed artist claims Cubans' interrogation lasted 5 hours

MIAMI – U.S. human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley said at first she wanted to know why Cuban authorities were holding her client. Hours later at a police station in Havana, she was asking them why they were holding her. 

Motley, a former defense attorney in Milwaukee, worked for the U.S. Department of Justice to train attorneys in Afghanistan. She has her own practice now, and her long list of prominent clients includes The New York Times. 

Motley said Cuban agents detained her while she was waiting to talk to journalists in Havana. 

"We were just standing there waiting," Motley said. "We weren't doing anything. We weren't hurting anybody. We were definitely not breaking any laws."

Motley said Cuban agents interrogated her at a police station on Friday. After releasing her, she said Cuban agents showed up in the middle of the night to the hotel where she was staying. Before her departure from the island, she said Cuban authorities also harassed her at the Jose Marti International Airport.

"They started accusing me of working for the government," Motley said. "I don't work for the government."

Motley traveled from Afghanistan to Cuba to represent artist Danilo "El Sexto" Maldonado, the 2015 recipient of the Human Rights Foundation's Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent.

Cuban agents imprisoned Maldonado Nov. 26 hours after he publicly celebrated Fidel Castro's death. He spray painted a wall with: "He is gone." Maldonado has a studio in Miami's Little Havana and missed a scheduled exhibit during the week of Art Basel Miami Beach. 

Maldonado was arrested in 2014 for using green paint to label two pigs with the names of the Castro brothers. Earlier this week, after his fiancée Alexandra Martinez visited him in prison on Monday, a sketchbook with his work made it out of the prison. 

Maldonado wrote Cuban guards gagged him, beat him and held in solitary confinement. He also claims prison guards harassed him about the status of his relationship to Martinez.

Motley said Maldonado was on a hunger strike at the Combinado del Este maximum security prison. 

View recent photos of 'El Sexto' drawings in prison:



About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

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.