Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cuban prison hunger striker dies


Cuban prison hunger striker dies

Leading Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo has died in hospital after 85 days on hunger strike, opposition sources say.

Mr Zapata, 42, had been admitted to Havana's Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital after his condition deteriorated.

Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience after his arrest in March 2003 in a crackdown on opposition groups.

He had been calling for the release of political prisoners.

He died between 1530 and 1600 local time (2030-2100 GMT) on Tuesday, Efe news agency reports.


His death marks the first time in nearly 40 years a Cuban activist starved himself to death to protest against government abuses.

His mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, told the Miami newspaper El Nuevo Herald by telephone that her son had been "murdered" by Cuba's authorities.

"They managed to do what they wanted," she said. "They ended the life of a fighter for human rights.''

According to the paper, the last political prisoner to die on hunger strike in Cuba was Pedro Luis Boitel, a poet and student leader, who died in 1972.

Cuba's illegal but tolerated Human Rights Commission says there are about 200 political prisoners still held in Cuba, about one-third less than when Raul Castro took over as president from his brother Fidel.

But if anything harassment of dissidents has increased over the past year, the group says.

Cuba designates prisoners of conscience as mercenaries sympathetic to the United States.

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