Helle Moos/made in copenhagen
International Human Rights Attorney Kimberley Motley was arrested in Cuba last month, while representing jailed Cuban activist and artist El Sexto. Motley was attempting to bring attention to El Sexto’s unjust arrest.
Danilo Maldonado Machado aka El Sexto had been arrested in November, shortly after the death of Fidel Castro, before attempting to leave Cuba to attend Art Basel in Miami. According to the Miami New Times, Machado was taken from his apartment without reason or explanation. El Sexto’s arrest attracted international attention, and prominent artists such as Julian Schnabel and Tania Bruguera signed their names to a petition calling for his immediate release.
Art Net reports that Motley was detained by officers in Havana, alongside artist and El Sexto collaborator Gorki Águila. Motley was released hours later and flew back to the United States the following day, where she remains.
Motley spoke to Jay Nordlinger of the “Q&A” podcast, and described her experience while in Cuba.
She arrived in the country from Afghanistan, where she works as a litigator, on December 14. Motley made several unsuccessful attempts to visit Machado in prison and also attempted to collect information about his arrest from local police stations. She even reached out to other artists in Cuba.
On Friday December 16, Motley was detained by a group of approximately “15-20” plainclothes and uniformed officers, while waiting to speak with local journalists. She was forced into a police car without being told the reason for her arrest. During her detainment, Motley was questioned about her intentions in Cuba “multiple times by multiple people.” After about nearly 5 hours of questions, she was given her passport and told that she was free to go. She was never told the reason for her arrest.
Hours after returning to her hotel, Motley received a call from the front desk, notifying her that police officers were waiting for her in the lobby. She was questioned again and told that she had to leave the country. When attempting to leave Cuba the following day, Motley was detained and questioned again at the airport. She ended up missing her flight, but managed to secure another flight soon after.
Motley maintains that while she was completely upfront about her reasons for visiting Cuba, she was accused of working for the government during her interrogation at the airport.
“My intention to go to Cuba was definitely not to be arrested… I wasn’t trying to provoke anything. In fact, I went very transparently there,” says Motley.
Motley remains in the United States and continues to speak out human rights issues.