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Cuba1 August 2008

Concern about condition of imprisoned journalist on hunger strike

Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the state of health of imprisoned journalist Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta of the Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental, who began a hunger strike on 18 July and sewed up his mouth as a protest on 21 July, and who is being denied access to medical care. Arrested on 20 March 2003, Herrera is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

“Herrera’s current state of health is grounds for suspending his sentence on humanitarian grounds,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is vital that he should receive medical treatment as soon as possible. We urge the Cuban authorities to show some consideration towards this prisoner, who is in danger of dying. We point out that a total of 23 journalists are imprisoned in Cuba, 20 of whom were, like Herrera, arrested during the ‘Black Spring’ of 2003.”

Held in Holguín provincial prison in the east of the country, Herrera is currently suffering from recurring high fevers, hypoglycaemia, low blood pressure and heart problems. In a letter to Melba Santana Ariz, the wife of another political prisoner in the same prison,. He said he was being refused all medical care and his condition was deteriorating steadily.

After sewing up his mouth, the stitches became infected, triggering high fevers. He has still not resumed feeding. He is demanding better food, religious assistance, the right to more phone calls and a transfer to his home province, Guantánamo.

Herrera was convicting under article 91 of the criminal code, which punishes activity against “the independence or territorial integrity of the state,” and article 88, which punishes activity serving “the imperialist interests of the United States.” Since his arrest, he has staged hunger strikes and sewn up his mouth several times in protest against his prison conditions.

Independent journalist Ernesto Corria Cabrera of the Nueva Prensa Cubana news agency was meanwhile detained by the state security police in Camagüey while doing a report about a pregnant woman and four children who were evicted from their home.

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