Journalist, librarian and doctor José Luis Garcia Paneque was arrested as part of the crackdown on alleged dissidents on 18 March 2003.
He was one of 35 writers, journalists and librarians 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 defendents 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 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 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. It is reported that 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.
There have been some 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 the prison officials denied any knowledge of this. Paneque’s family members also faced indirect repercussions and harassment due to his imprisonment, and his wife and children are said to have fled to the USA in June 2007 due to constant harassment.
In 2008, despite his worsening health, which has seriously deteriorated as a result of poor intestinal absorption, a condition for which he was not receiving an appropriate diet, he was reportedly deprived of medical treatment.
English PEN remain deeply concerned for the well-being of our Honorary Member Fabio Prieto Llorente. As such we are continuing to call for his immediate and unconditional release. At a minimum, we urge the Cuban authorities to ensure that immediate improvements are made to his prison conditions, including full access to visitors and medical treatment.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/campaigns/cubacampaign/honorarymemberjosluisgarciapaneque/