Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta sews mouth shut to protest Cuban prison conditions
Posted: 07 August 2008 09:39 PM   [ Ignore ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

UPI

A Cuban political prisoner who sewed his mouth shut for a hunger strike was forced to eat when jailers undid his stitches, human rights activists say.

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, 42, is a journalist serving 20 years at the Holguín Provincial Prison after he was caught up in the 2003 crackdown on dissent.

He began a hunger strike July 18 to demand a transfer closer to his home in Guantanamo province, the Miami Herald reported Thursday.

Many Cuban political prisoners are doing time far from home, forcing long journeys by families to visit. Herrera’s teenage daughter died in a car accident earlier this year while making the trip to visit him.

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile
 
 
Posted: 09 August 2008 07:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ | Associated Press

Cuban-American groups in South Florida and journalism watchdog organizations are seeking the release of 22 Cuban political prisoners, including an independent journalist who apparently sewed his lips shut to protest his treatment.

The wife of a fellow prisoner told other Cuban activists and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists that Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, 42, sewed his own lips together in mid-July while in prison in Cuba’s eastern Holguin province.

Herrera sewed his lips as part of a hunger strike to protest prison conditions, said Carlos Lauria, who coordinates the Committee’s Americas program. He said Herrera and other political prisoners face inadequate health-care, rotten food and occasional beatings. They are also often housed with hardened criminals, Lauria said.

The hunger strike ended around July 30, when Herrera was taken to a prison hospital.

Cuban press officials in Havana did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. The communist government typically does not comment on the protests of political prisoners and regularly characterizes them as mercenaries and counterrevolutionaries.

Herrera is among 22 government opponents held since a 2003 crackdown, when 75 dissident and independent journalists were arrested.

He was convicted under Cuba’s Law 88, a broad measure that makes it a crime to disseminate any information or disturb public order with the aim of furthering the U.S. embargo against the island. He is serving a 20-year sentence.

“We talked to Melba Santana, the wife of fellow prisoner Alfredo Dominguez Batista. She visited the prison, and she was unable to see Herrera, but apparently the journalist (Herrera) was able to smuggle her a note, telling his condition,” Lauria said.

The Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directory, which works to raise awareness about Cuban political prisoners internationally and receives U.S. funding, made public this week a brief telephone exchange between Herrera and Cuban human rights activist Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva.

In it, Herrera, speaking very quickly, says the stitches were forcibly removed and threatens to renew his hunger strike and sew his lips together again “no matter the cost.”

In a phone interview from his home in Havana, Leiva told The Associated Press in Miami Friday that he recorded the prison call Aug. 5.

Other secondhand reports indicated the stitches were removed after they became infected.

Reporters Without Borders has also expressed concern about Herrera and other prisoners, and Amnesty International has listed Herrera and Dominguez among prisoners worldwide “imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs.”

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile