Cuban biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola was freed Tuesday after spending more than two weeks on a hunger strike to protest his one-year prison sentence for allegedly “disrespecting” a forest ranger.
His release was officially classified as akin to a parole because he suffers from an “anxiety depressive” syndrome, according to a Radio Marti report on a document that authorities handed to his family on his release.
“I need to find a way to deal with all these absurdities in my life,” Ruiz told Radio Marti after his release. “I need to bring some balance into my emotional life.”
The biologist was transferred Monday to a civilian ward at the Abel Santamaria in Pinar del Rio, according to the digital newspaper 14ymedio. Relatives said they fear the parole could be revoked at some point to return Ruiz to prison.
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The 44-year-old was sentenced in May to one year in prison by a municipal tribunal in Viñales, in the western province of Pinar del Rio, after a trial that his family alleged was stage-managed by State Security agents.
He was arrested on the small farm he rents from the government after he called a forest ranger a “rural guard” — an often harsh, rural police force branch in the first decade of the 20th century.
Amnesty International declared him a “prisoner of conscience” June 12 and demanded his release “immediately and unconditionally,” alleging that he was jailed “only for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”
The U.S. government last week urged Cuba to immediately free all political prisoners and expressed special concern for Ruiz Urquiola.
The biologist, who launched his hunger strike on June 17, said he will continue to struggle but needs time to put his sentiments “in order.”