Alert on Cuban prisoner of conscience
A letter faxed from Cuba on June 5th by Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet's wife, Elsa Morejón, denounces his critical state and makes an urgent appeal for his life. Dr. Biscet is President of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba and a prisoner of conscience held at a prison in Pinar del Río Province, far from his family.
Dr. Biscet's wife reports that he has been kept in a punishment cell in solitary confinement since April 23rd for refusing to wear the prisoners' uniform. His cell is 6 ft by 3 ft, has insufficient light and ventilation, and no shower or running water. He must use a hole as a toilet and the only water he gets for hygiene is delivered in a bucket. He sleeps on the floor, as there is no bed. He is prohibited from keeping any books, including his bible, or any other personal belongings, such as food, vitamins, medications, paper, or pens. He is forbidden from communicating by mail even with his family and has no access to fresh air or sunlight. The only items allowed in the cell are a bed sheet, a towel, toothpaste, dental floss, soap, and deodorant. His civilian clothes, along with his shoes and underwear, were confiscated on April 23rd. From that day on he only wears a pair of shorts and beach thongs in lieu of shoes.
For over a month the family has been unable to speak with him over the phone. Three scheduled visits for May as well as all delivery of food and other items had been suspended. The family has been to the prison three times, but has been prevented from seeing Dr. Biscet. He also refuses special foods - such as chicken, vegetables, and soup- alleging these should be given every day instead of once a month, and a medical check-up, fearing a disease could be transmitted into his blood system.
As a result of the family's continued requests to receive something in writing, on May 28th, prison authorities delivered a note from him that states: "I am innocent of the charges for which I was condemned, which is why I will maintain my ideological position. A true man cannot betray himself, so I only appeal to the living God and pray to our Lord, as He is not neutral and never abandons his flock. I am in good health, but feeling very lonely."
Dr. Biscet's health was good before he went to prison in 1999. Today he suffers from Grade 1 hypertension and severe gum disease. In 1999 Dr. Biscet was sentenced to 3 years in prison for exercising his right to protest against the death penalty in Cuba and for appealing for the release of all political prisoners. He fully served his sentence in the Cuba Sí prison in Holquín, 768 km away from his family, and was released on October 31st, 2002. He was arrested again on December 6, 2002 for attempting to express himself and associate himself according to his views on human rights. He was being held at the Combinado del Este prison in Havana, accused of violating the public order. On March 29, 2003, he was transferred to State Security Headquarters and summarily tried for undermining Cuba's territorial integrity and sovereignty. On April 7th he was sentenced to 25 year in prison. On May 22, 2003, he was transferred to the prison in Pinar del Rio.
Dr. Biscet is 41, black, married, and a father. According to his wife, 'his crimes are honoring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, opposing abortion and the death penalty, and organizing civil rights' movements through non-violent disobedience to reclaim the rights of fellow Cubans that he believes are being violated."
Elsa Morejon pleas on her husband's behalf: "This man does not deserve to die in a dungeon. This man and his family have lost everything except their faith in God for the noble cause of human rights.( ...) We know that my husband's life is in danger. For this reason, we ask for the urgent help of all people of goodwill, including Cuba's authorities."
The full text of the letter is attached. It was faxed from Cuba on 6/5/03 to Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Distinguished Professor, Chair Department of Physics and Astronomy, Herbert H. Lehman College, The City University of New York. Translated from Spanish by Maria C. Werlau, 6/6/03. The text in Spanish is only available by fax.
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Maria C. Werlau