BosNewsLife (04/24/06) The health of a leading Christian Cuban prisoner of conscience has “significantly worsened,” amid abuse inside the detention facility where at least one person was killed in recent days, his wife said Monday, April 24.
In a statement received by BosNewsLife, Rebeca Rodriguez Sauto said that during last week’s visit to, Kilo 7 Prison in the province of Camaguey she found the that health condition of her husband, Dr. Alfredo Pulido Lopez, seriously deteriorated. She said he is now at least “20 pounds under what he weighed when he was incarcerated in 2003” and stressed she “had never seen” her husband “so depressed and psychologically distraught.”
She quoted him as saying that his condition was “related to…a lot of aggression among the prisoners. A few days before [the visit] one prisoner had killed another,” and there are fears of similar attacks against dissidents in the prison.
“We are constantly under inspection. They call those of us that are political prisoners “counter-revolutionaries” and threaten us like common criminals” Dr. Pulido reportedly told his wife.
Dr. Pulido was one of 75 prisoners, including Christians, detained in a massive government crackdown in March 2003 on dissidents demanding more religious and political freedom. He was tried summarily on April 2003, and sentenced to 14 years in prison for “acts against the independence and the territorial integrity of the Cuban State “.
There have been also reported attacks against evangelical Christians in recent months, including Reverend Carlos Lamelas, an evangelical pastor who has been jailed since February 20 for allegedly aiding refugees seeking to emigrate illegally from the Communist island.
Church observers say Lamelas was targeted for harassment because he challenged the government on religious rights issues while serving as national president of his church.
He reportedly told his wife, Uramis, last month at the Villa Marita Detention Center in Havana, that he was pretty discouraged because the legal case is not moving forward.
Human rights activists have expressed concern that Fidel Castro is cracking down on growing independent churches and organizations deemed dangerous for the survival of his Communist government. This also impacts living conditions of prisoners of conscience suggested Rebeca Rodriguez Sauto, with her husband as an example
“Chronic bronchitis and a lack of air also affect Dr. Pulido’s health, and recently, dark bruises of an unknown origin have appeared on his skin…”
He reportedly told his wife that because of “the serious illnesses” from which he suffers, authorities should have granted him a medical parole some time ago.” But Dr. Pulido said they refuse to release him as his “convictions are firm, and I make them quite clear.”
He does not want to ask for a medical parole “since he is innocent” adding that “all the Cuban authorities really have to give is freedom,” his wife quoted him as saying.
Dr. Pulido, 46, practiced dentistry for 22 years until 1998 when he was expelled from his clinic for linking himself to the dissident movement through the Christian Liberation Movement, dissidents said.
In 2001, he began to work as an independent journalist in Camagey and was eventually detained on March 18, 2003, and sentenced in what critics described as “a summary trial” to 14 years in prison.
Investigators say he is confined to a barrack with 100 common prisoners, many of whom are condemned for murder, in Kilo 7 Prison in Camagey. Human rights groups have urged the international community to pressure Cuban government to free Dr. Alfredo Pulido Lopez who they say is imprisoned for exercising fundamental freedoms.
Cuban leader Castro has strongly denied human rights abuses and says there are no “dissidents” on his island. He has said the imprisoned activists are “mercenaries of the United States ” seeking to overthrow his government.