We are writing to request your urgent prayers and action for Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Paneque, a doctor and a devout Roman Catholic who has been imprisoned in Cuba since 2003. His family is seriously concerned for his health, which has deteriorated dramatically in prison where Dr. Garcia Paneque has suffered from chronic diarrhea leading to malnutrition. As a result, he has lost approximately 5 ½ stone (80 pounds or 30 kg) while in prison. He now weighs less than 10 stone. Other prisoners have reported that he has been given psychotropic drugs and during one period last autumn, spent a lot of time crying and banging his head against the wall.
Most recently his family has been told that government doctors have found a cyst on his kidneys and have recommended emergency surgery. The family is concerned however, that given his bad state of health, he will not survive surgery. Dr. Garcia Paneque, who is from Las Tunas, located in the eastern part of Cuba, was sentenced to 24 years in prison in April 2003 because of his work in support of human rights and democracy. He is active in an independent association of journalists and was also the administrator of an “independent” library.
His arrest and imprisonment was part of a larger crackdown on human rights and democracy activists in what has now become known as the Black Spring of 2003. 75 activists were arrested and imprisoned during the crackdown. His wife and their four young children were forced to flee the country earlier this year after intense harassment and attacks on their home. They were granted asylum in the US but have continued to monitor Dr. Garcia Paneque’s situation closely.
His wife, Yamile, told CSW that it was a very difficult and painful decision to leave the country but following the attacks on their home, they decided it was the only way to keep their children safe. She said she misses her country every day. Yamile also told CSW that the doctor takes great comfort from his Bible which he has been allowed to keep with him in prison and which he reads every day.
For some time, the prison authorities refused to allow him to meet with a priest, but have now changed the policy and are allowing a meeting once every two months. Although his physical health continues to suffer, she said his spiritual health is strong.
Yamile requested prayer for the following points:• The health of her husband;• For the reunion of the family;• For the adjustment to life in a new country. (The children will go to summer school to learn more English but Yamile speaks very little);
You might consider sending a card or letter of encouragement to the doctor at:
Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Paneque
Prision Provincial Las Mangas (Hombres)
Please also consider writing to your MP and your MEP, asking them to write to the Cuban ambassador in London to push for Dr. Garcia Paneque’s release.
You can find the details of your MP by calling 020 7219 4272 or logging on to www.parliament.uk , and of your MEP by calling 020 7227 4300 or logging on to http://www.europarl.org.uk/.
The address for all MPs is:
House of Commons
And for MEPs:
Thank you for your continued prayers.