Cuban dissident on hunger strike was sent back to prison

A Cuban dissident who declared a hunger strike four weeks ago to protest his arrest, trial and conviction — all in just three days — is suffering from bouts of dizziness and other health problems, opposition activists said Tuesday.

Iván Fernández Depestre was transferred from the Guamajal prison to the Arnaldo Milian Hospital in Santa Clara earlier this month because of the effects of his protest, said Santa Clara dissident Damarys Moya.

Other opposition activists who visited him Monday in the hospital said he looked extremely thin and complained of bouts of dizziness, high blood pressure and stomach and joint pains, Moya said.

She added that Fernández told her in an earlier phone conversation that a prison official had warned him that as soon as he was discharged from the hospital he would be sent to the isolation wing of the Guamajal prison.

A nurse at the hospital told her on Tuesday that Fernández was discharged at 10 p.m. Monday and was taken away by prison officials, Moya told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Santa Clara.

“They returned him to the prison because they want to hide him in the prison, in case he dies,” said another Santa Clara dissident, Loreto Hernández. ‘We fear for his life.”

Fernández, who is about 40 years old and an activist in the Orlando Zapata National Civic Resistance Front, was arrested July 30 during an opposition march in his hometown of Placetas near Santa Clara, according to Cuban Democratic Directorate.

He was tried on Aug. 2 for “pre-criminal dangerousness,” a catch-all charge often used by prosecutors against dissidents, and was sentenced to two years in prison, the Miami-based directorate reported.

Fernández launched his hunger strike on the very day of his arrest, but his protest did not become public until Aug. 19, according to the dissidents in Santa Clara.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, issued a statement Tuesday branding Fernández’s imprisonment as “unjust” and “outrageous” and saying that she is concerned about his deteriorating health.

“The international community must express solidarity with the 11 million Cubans oppressed by the Castros and it must demand the immediate release of not only Iván but all those innocent Cubans being held unjustly in Castro’s gulags,” Ros-Lehtinen added.

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