Cuba Christians Concerned Over Health Journalist
HAVANA, CUBA (BosNewsLife)– Despite pleas from fellow persecuted
Christians not to do so, Cuban prisoner of conscience and journalist
Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta sewed his mouth shut and was believed to
continue his action Saturday, December 30, dissidents said.
Harrera Acosta, 40, sewed his mouth Tuesday, December 26, at the maximum
security Prison of Kilo 8, in Camaguey, Cuba's largest province, said
Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, a blind Christian lawyer and president of
the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights (FCDH).
He, "sewed his mouth shut to protest the hostile treatment he is
suffering at the hands of State Security and Military officers at this
penitentiary," said Gonzalez Leiva in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife.
"The guards deprive this prisoner of conscience his right to telephone
calls and his end of the year family visit is suspended. Herrera Acosta
is under continuous psychological persecution, since he is tormented by
dangerous common prisoners," he said in a statement released by an
underground news agency.
Reports of the action came as a disappointment for Oswaldo Jose Paya
Sardinas who represents the Christian Liberation Movement of dissidents.
Paya Sardinas, who in 2002 received the European Parliament's Sakharov
Prize for Freedom of Thought, said he had urged Herrera Acosta not to
sew his mouth.
In late October "I asked him not to do it- I am not ashamed to say that
I begged it of him- telling him that it is us who still have the
opportunity to speak out," he said in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife.
"It us who have to defend the dignity and the rights of those who are
reduced to total disadvantage under truly perverse treatment. On other
occasions, Juan Carlos has sewed his mouth- we do not want him to do it
again," he added.
"I warned him that I was not going to support that [and] that this
decision is against the will of all his brothers and that he does not
have to go to such extremes…[Because] we would denounce the violations
that he and many other prisoners are suffering."
At the same time he urged Christians and others that "before daring to
judge him, should ask themselves: 'What have I done in the face of this
horror that so many human beings live through day to day in Cuban jails?'"
Gonzalez Leiva said Herrera Acosta's "delicate state of health is
becoming worse" since he is confined in a cell without his belongings
and is reportedly forced to sleep on the floor surrounded by insects and
Dissidents have said he is suffering from dystrophy and numerous other
ailments, some of them being: heart blockage, vitiligo, high blood
pressure, chronic gastritis, and bone disease.
Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta was condemned to serve 20 years in prison
during the March-April 2003 crackdown on dissidents is confined in the
same compound with "dangerous convicts" condemned to death and to life
imprisonment, investigators and activists said.
He was sentenced on what activists have described as "trumped-up
charges" that he violated Article 91 of the criminal code which forbids
"undermining national independence and territorial integrity".
He was also found guilty of violating a law punishing activities that
serve the "imperialist ends" of the United States, including working for
foreign media, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Herrera Acosta was previously arrested on October 6, 1997, and sentenced
to five years in prison for "illegally trying to leave the country" and
"other offences against state security," according to RSF. He was
conditionally released on September 16, 2001, before being re-arrested
He is over twenty journalists who were arrested in the March 2003
crackdown and still being held in prison. Mostly accused of being
"mercenaries in the service of a foreign power", they were reportedly
handed down sentences from 14 to 27 years in prison.
Reports of harassment, intimidation and brutality towards the
independent press have not diminished under Raul Castro, who took over
as interim leader this year from his frail brother Castro.
In December 1956, the brothers Fidel and Raul Castro and Ernesto "Che"
Guevara landed in Cuba from exile in Mexico with their fellow rebels on
board the yacht Granma. This episode marked the start of the Castro
revolution leading to the overthrow two years later of the Fulgencio
This month, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of this event, RWF said
that, since then, one dictatorship has given way to another and publicly
condemned the jailing of journalists. The Cuban authorities have
consistently denied human rights abuses and the existence of
'dissidents' saying those persecuted are mainly "mercenaries" of the
United States seeking to overthrow the government. (With BosNewsLife
Research and reports from Cuba).