Case of the Month June 2007: José Luis Garcia Paneque

Journalist, librarian and doctor José Luis Garcia Paneque, born 1965, was one of around 80 people arrested as part of a crackdown on alleged dissidents on 18 March 2003. He and 33 other writers, journalists and librarians were sentenced during the one-day trials held on 3/4 April 2003, under laws governing the protection of the Cuban State.

These hearings were held behind closed doors, leaving little time for the defendants to put together a cogent defense. Paneque was sentenced to 24 years in prison, under Law 88 and Article 91, charged with ‘serving foreign powers.’ He was originally sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment, but the court extended his sentence without explanation.

Paneque is reported to have suffered from mental illness and severe claustrophobia during his imprisonment. He was transferred to the ward at the Prisión de Jóvenes in Villa Clara around the period of July 2004 and later to the infirmary at the Combinado del Este Prison in Havana in November 2004, suffering from intestinal problems. In March 2005, reports depicted Paneque as emaciated, having lost over half of his bodyweight (36 kgs) since his imprisonment. Former fellow prisoner Raúl Rivero reported on 12 April 2005 that García had been transferred to a prison psychiatric ward, a move he claimed signalled the journalist’s impending release. Paneque is listed as one of the eleven most critically ill political prisoners in Cuba by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.   

Over the past year, there have been grave concerns over Paneque being at risk of physical attacks from fellow prisoners. In 2006, his wife Yamilé Llanes Labrada asked to meet with the prison director to bring attention to this, but prison officials denied any knowledge of the problem. Paneque’s family members have also faced indirect repercussions and harassment due to his imprisonment.

Paneque is an Honorary Member of English PEN.

To call for Paneque’s release, English PEN urges readers to write to President Fidel Castro care of the Cuban representative in London:

His Excellency Rene J Mujica Cantelar

167 High Holborn

London WC1 6PA

Fax: 020 7836 2602



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