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article imagePro-Democracy Activist Dies On Hunger Strike In Cuba

By Christopher Szabo     Feb 24, 2010 in World
Havana - A leading Cuban political activist has died in a Havana hospital on an 85-day hunger strike. Orlando Zapata Tamayo had been in prison since 2003.
Zapata Tamayo, 42, died Tuesday after refusing food for 85 days, according to Al Jazeera. The television network said he was transferred from a smaller clinic near his home in the province of Camaguy to the Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital the day before. Al Jazeera said Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience. He started the hunger strike to protest against conditions in jail, which he blamed for his deteriorating health.
This is the first time in 40 years that a hunger striker has died in a Cuban prison.
Cuba Archive, a human rights group seeking to document violations in Cuba, said in a press release sent to Digital Journal that Tamayo:
Sought to be recognized as a prisoner of conscience, requesting similar conditions as those under which Fidel Castro had been held for a year and a half during the Batista regime.
Fidel Castro’s revolution overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
According to Cuba Archive, Zapata Tamayo had been a member of several opposition groups calling for democracy in Cuba by peaceful means. He was imprisoned from December 2002 to March 2003, charged with ”disrespect.” The release added:
Just thirteen days later, he was again apprehended while participating in a fast with other former political prisoners in what became known as the Black Spring clampdown against 75 dissidents around the country. In May 2004 he was sentenced to three years of prison for contempt, public disorder, and disobedience.
The group gave shocking details of his treatment while in prison. Cuba Archive says after Zapata Tamayo went on hunger strike demanding humane treatment:
Prison authorities refused him water for 18 days, leading to kidney failure. He was then held naked over a powerful air conditioner and developed pneumonia.
The group notes that the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups are not given access to inspect Cuba’s prisons.
Meanwhile, the Uncommon Sense website quotes his mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, saying: ”The death of my son was premeditated murder.”
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