Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cuban dissident dies following hunger strike in Cuban prison

Orlando Zapata Tamayo has died in a Cuban prison after an 86 day hunger strike protesting prison conditions. He was arrested in 2003 following a crack down by the government on dissident groups. He was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International soon after the arrest.

This from the Miami Herald:
A jailed Cuban dissident on a hunger strike for 86 days died Tuesday, his mother reported, the first time in nearly 40 years an island activist starved himself to death to protest government abuses.

``They have assassinated Orlando Zapata Tamayo. The death of my son has been a premediated murder'' Reina Luisa Tamayo told El Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview.

``The managed to do what they wanted. They ended the life of a fighter for human rights.''

It was the first time an opponent of the communist government died during a hunger strike since the 1972 death in prison of Pedro Luis Boitel, a poet and student leader who had fought against both the Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro dictatorships.

Zapata, 42 who had worked as a plumber and bricklayer, stopped eating solid foods Dec. 3 to protest what he described as repeated beatings by guards and other abuses at his prison in eastern Cuba.

He was arrested in 2003 during a government crackdown that sentenced 75 government critics to lengthy prison terms, and Amnesty International declared him a ``prisoner of conscience'' that year.

Initially charged with contempt, public disorder and ``disobedience'' and sentenced to three years, he was convicted of other acts of defiance while in prison and sentenced to a total of 36 years.
Amnesty International has called on the Cuban government for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience.

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