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Cuban authorities ‘responsible’ for activist’s death on hunger strike – Amnesty International

Cuban authorities ‘responsible’ for activist’s death on hunger strike
20 January 2012

“The responsibility for Wilman Villar Mendoza’s death in custody lies
squarely with the Cuban authorities, who summarily judged and jailed him
for exercising his right to of .”
Javier Zúñiga, Special Adviser at Amnesty International
Fri, 20/01/2012

The death in custody of a Cuban after a hunger
strike is a shocking reminder of the Raúl Castro government’s
intolerance for dissent, Amnesty International said today.

Wilman Villar Mendoza, 31, died this morning in Juan Bruno Zayas
in the city of Santiago where he was transferred from on
13 January due to problems allegedly arising from a hunger strike
protesting at his unfair trial and imprisonment.

He was serving a four-year prison term on charges related to his
participation in a public demonstration against the government.

“The responsibility for Wilman Villar Mendoza’s death in custody lies
squarely with the Cuban authorities, who summarily judged and jailed him
for exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Javier Zúñiga,
Special Adviser at Amnesty International.

“His tragic death highlights the depths of despair faced by the other
prisoners of conscience still languishing in Cuban jails, who must be
released immediately and unconditionally.”

“The Cuban authorities must stop the harassment, , and
imprisonment of peaceful demonstrators as well as political and human
rights activists.”

On 14 November 2011, Villar Mendoza and eight other
members of the Cuban Patriotic Union group in the eastern town
of Contramaestre for taking part in a protest against the Cuban government.

While he was in detention, police intimidated Villar Mendoza, telling
him he would be disappeared or face imprisonment on criminal charges
stemming from an earlier arrest if he did not stop his protests and
leave the dissident group.

He was released after three days in police custody but was then summoned
to Contramaestre Municipal Tribunal on 24 November. Judges tried him in
private and refused to accept testimony from his wife or other defence
witnesses.

The judges sentenced the activist to four years’ imprisonment and
immediately transferred him to Aguadores prison, in the provincial
capital Santiago. The same day, he began a hunger strike in protest at
the ruling.

As Villar Mendoza’s health deteriorated over recent days, members of the
Cuban Patriotic Union and the Ladies in White opposition group organised
a vigil outside the hospital. On 18 January, state security officials
broke up the gathering and detained more than a dozen people.

Wilman Villar Mendoza is not the first of conscience to die in
Cuban custody.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner of conscience jailed after the “Black
Spring” crackdown on opposition groups in March 2003, died in prison on
23 February 2010 after several weeks on hunger strike.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/cuban-authorities-responsible-activists-death-hunger-strike-2012-01-20

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