Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cuba Activists Abused In Prison; Health Deteriorates

Cuba Activists "Abused" In Prison; Health Deteriorates
Wednesday, 27 June 2007 (22 hours ago)
By BosNewsLife News Center with reporting from Cuba
Cuban leader Fidel Castro urged to think about, and release, political
dissidents, including Christians.

HAVANA, CUBA (BosNewsLife)-- Pro-democracy activists, including
Christians, remained behind bars Wednesday, June 27, in Communist-run
Cuba, amid fresh concerns about their health because of alleged prison

In statements obtained by BosNewsLife dissidents and family members said
they remained particularly concerned about the plight of Dr. Luis Milan
Fernandez and fellow pro-democracy activist, independent journalist
Pedro Arguelles Moran.

Dr. Milan's health has deteriorated because of apparent abuse by fellow
inmates, while Moran has been denied medication for his ailments,
dissidents told BosNewsLife.

"Dr. Milán Fernández is forced to share a cell with two or three mental
patients who are suffering a variety of disorders,
including...schizophrenia [and] depressive neurosis...Penal authorities
follow a pattern, changing his cell mates, sometimes leaving him alone,"
at a psychiatric ward of the Prison of Boniato, in Santiago de Cuba

The physician is a member of the Independent Cuban Medical Association
(Colegio Medico Independiente de Cuba) and was detained after he and his
wife, a dentist, signed a document titled 'Manifiesto 2001,' calling,
among other measures, for the recognition of "fundamental freedoms" in Cuba.


They also carried out a one-day hunger strike to call attention to the
medical situation of detainees and other rights issues. He was arrested
and tried summarily on April 4, 2003 on charges of "disrupting internal
order, destabilizing the country and destroying the Socialist State and
the independence of Cuba", and sentenced to serve 13 years in prison.

Dr. Milan, 37, was "a very healthy man" before being imprisoned, but now
suffers from several ailments including a tumor in the left humerus,
loss of hearing, hypertension and an enlarged liver, dissidents said.
He has refused to undergo medical procedures saying he does not medical
personnel in the prison.

His wife, Lisandra Lafitta, said that during her latest, June 12, prison
visit, she found that her husband had lost weight "and has [a] deep dark
[color] under [his] eye circles.

The "unbearable heat in his cell" and the "erratic and unruly behavior
of his fellow inmates" including one who "recently cut off one of his
own ears" prevents him "from getting enough sleep or rest," she said. It
is impossible for him to read or write and he "is unable to look outside
of the cement blinds in his cell," she said. "He can smell and hear the
rain but he is unable to see it fall..."


Independent journalist Pedro Arguelles Moran also suffers health
problems but prison authorities deny him refuse to allow him the
"prescribed medications he requires," dissidents said.

His wife, Yolanda Vera Nerey, was quoted as saying that her husband had
to carry out a hunger strike in prison this month for 72 hours demanding
that prison authorities "hand him the anti-acid tablets brought to him
by his family which were prescribed by his doctors."

Vera Nerey added that her husband is practically blind and suffers from
other ailments. Moran, 59, is the director of the Ciego de Avila
Independent Journalists Cooperative, and was sentenced to 20 years in
prison during the Cuban government crackdown of March 2003 on dissidents.

He is serving his sentence in the prison of Canaleta, more than 400
kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital Havana in the province of
Ciego de Avila. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has denied human rights abuses
and the existence of "dissidents" saying those detained are either
"mercenaries of the United States" or against his revolution.


News of the alleged prison abuses against the detained dissidents come
amid reports that a prominent Cuban group has launched a campaign to
push for constitutional reforms that would allow democratic elections
and greater respect for human rights.

The campaign is the latest in a series of calls for political and
economic changes by opposition groups on the island since Cuban leader
Fidel Castro fell ill almost 11 months ago and temporarily handed over
power to his younger brother, Raul.

The latest push for change is led by Oswaldo Paya, a dissident with
close ties to the Catholic Church, who five years ago gained
international notoriety by gathering 25,000 signatures calling for a
referendum on civil liberties that became known as the Varela Project.
Hundreds of dissidents, many of them Christians, are believed to be in
prisons across the island.


While the dissidents advocate a peaceful overthrow of Castro's
government, documents released Tuesday, June 26, showed that the United
States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) attempted to assassinate the
Communist leader.

The CIA recruited a former FBI agent to approach two of America's
most-wanted mobsters and gave them poison pills meant for Castro during
his first year in power, according to declassified papers.

Contained amid hundreds of pages of CIA internal reports released
Tuesday, June 26, collectively known as "the family jewels," the
official confirmation of the 1960 plot against Castro was expected to be
welcomed by Communist authorities as more proof of their longstanding
claims that the United States wanted Castro dead, The Associated Press
(AP) news agency said.

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