For Immediate Release: June 28, 2007
New York – Dr. José Luis García Paneque and Normando Hernández González, independent journalists imprisoned in Cuba since April 2003, are dangerously ill and should be immediately transferred to a civilian hospital facility, Human Rights First, the New York-based advocacy group, said today. Both men were arrested in March 2003 as part of a major crackdown on peaceful dissent in Cuba.
“Both of these men were jailed after unfair trials for their legitimate, non-violent activities. They should not be in prison at all,” said Neil Hicks, Director of Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defenders Program. “The Cuban government should immediately transfer them to civilian hospitals so that they can receive the medical care they need,” added Hicks.
García Paneque is currently being treated for pneumonia in his right lung in the prison hospital of “Las Mangas” prison in Bayamo, Cuba. His family is concerned that he may not receive the best available care in the prison hospital. Their requests for consultations with independent doctors not affiliated with the prison, as well as petitions for his release on medical parole, have to date been ignored by the Cuban authorities. In addition to pneumonia, García Paneque suffers from chronic diarrhea and poor intestinal absorption, resulting in chronic malnutrition and severe weight loss, high fevers and chronic shortage of breath.
Hernández González is being held in the “Kilo 7” prison in Camaguey, and is also suffering from poor intestinal absorption and chronic diarrhea. His health has rapidly deteriorated in the last three weeks. According to his wife, Yaraí Reyes, Hernández González was so weak that she had to help him carry the bag of supplies she brought to him in prison on June 21, 2007. He also reports suffering repeated waves of nausea and loss of appetite. Reyes’ petition for his release and demands for proper medical care have gone unanswered.Hicks added, “We call again for the immediate and unconditional release of Dr. José Luis García Paneque and Normando Hernández González, as well as all others held in Cuba for their nonviolent promotion of human rights and democracy and the peaceful expression of their beliefs.”