Monday, March 27, 2006

Call for humanitarian gesture towards two journalists on hunger strike

Cuba | 27.03.2006
Call for humanitarian gesture towards two journalists on hunger strike

Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today about the state of health
of two imprisoned journalists who are on hunger strike, Juan Carlos
Herrera Acosta and Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, calling for a
humanitarian gesture from the Cuban authorities and for foreign
embassies in Havana to intercede.

“How are we to interpret this indifference about the slow death of two
individuals who are just demanding the right to express their views and
surf the Internet freely,” the press freedom organisation said. “And
what danger could possibly come from two people who are so physically
and mentally debilitated ?”

Reporters Without Borders added : “The silence from the authorities
could reinforce the feeling of many prisoners and dissidents that they
have nothing to lose, and could thereby encourage more hunger strikes.
We reiterate our appeal to the Cuban government for clemency and we urge
the foreign embassies in Havana to monitor the cases of Herrera and
Fariñas closely.”

Herrera, who has been on a hunger strike for 22 days in his prison cell
in Kilo 8 prison in the eastern city of Camagüey, sowed up his mouth in
a new gesture of protest on 23 March, the Miami-based website Cubanet
reported. According to Juan Carlos González Leyva, the head of the Cuban
Foundation for Human Rights, Herrera did this after being badly beaten
by guards for two days running, on 21 and 22 March.

Herrera, who worked for an independent news agency called the Agencia de
Prensa Libre Oriental (APLO), is serving a 20-year prison sentence which
he received after being arrested in the March 2003 crackdown. Held in
solitary confinement, he has for some time suffered from high blood
pressure and gastritis, but he has not been getting appropriate treatment.

Dr. Julio Sánchez Hernández of an independent medical institute in the
central province of Santa Clara told Cubanet on 19 March that Fariñas’s
condition has got much worse and that he was very concerned and
pessimistic about his chances of survival. Fariñas is suffering from
bouts of fever, violent migraines and loss of feeling in his legs.

He first began refusing to eat and drink on 31 January to demand
Internet access for all Cubans but there have been periods when his
hunger strike was interrupted while he received treatment.

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