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Cuba18 March 2005

Concern that imprisoned journalist, José Luis García Paneque, could die soon

On the second anniversary of his arrest, Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today at the dramatic decline in the health of José Luis García Paneque, 39, the editor of the independent news agency Libertad, who has lost 40 kg over the past two years in the prisons where he has been serving a 24-year sentence.

"García Paneque was unjustly imprisoned simply for being an independent journalist and keeping him in detention any longer could be fatal, so we urgently call on the Cuban authorities to release him to allow him to receive the medical care he needs," the press freedom organization said.

His wife, Yamilé Llanes Labrada, told Reporters Without Borders: "My husband weighed 86 kg when he was arrested and weighs 40 kg less now. He has a case of intestinal malabsorption that is life-threatening. He is weak and emaciated. He has had untreated diarrhea for the past 15 months. He needs food rich in animal protein but is not getting any access to it. He is extremely malnourished and won’t survive if he stays in prison."

García Paneque has been hospitalized twice because of his condition. He was taken from Santa Clara prison in the centre of the country, where he began to serve his sentence, to the Vladimir Lenin hospital in the eastern city of Holguín. The following November, he was admitted to the infirmary of Havana’s Combinado del Este prison, where he is still held.

"The diagnosis has been confirmed but my husband is still not getting the food and care he needs," said Llanes Labrada, who previously contacted Reporters Without Borders about her husband in mid-January. "The authorities know his condition is incompatible with detention but they neither say nor do anything. She said she was also worried about the psychological impact on their four children, who are "traumatized by the fact that their father is being treated so badly."



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