Normando Hernández González

Normando Hernández GonzálezD.o.b: 21 October 1969

Profession: Director of Colegio de Periodistas Independientes de Camagüey (Camagüey College of Independent Journalists) and journalist (CubaNet)

Details of arrest: Arrested on 24 March 2003 as part of a crackdown on alleged dissidents that began on 18 March 2003 and in which around 80 people were detained. 

Details of trial: One of 34 journalists, writers and librarians sentenced during the one-day trials held on 3/4 April 2003 under laws governing the protection of the Cuban state. The one-day court hearings were held behind closed doors and it is reported that there was insufficient time for the accused to put together a cogent defence.

Sentence: 25 years. Sentenced under Article 91 and other provisions of the Criminal Code.

Place of detention: Kilo 7 prison, Camaguey.

Health concerns

1) Reported on 5 June 2003 to be suffering from very high blood pressure.

2) Reported to have begun a hunger strike in protest at prison conditions on 31 August 2003. Transferred from Boniato prison, Santiago de Cuba to Kilo 5½ prison, Pinar del Río.

3) Reported to have been held in solitary confinement since beginning his sentence. Also reported in January 2004 to be suffering from high blood pressure and undiagnosed heart problems, and to have been assaulted by the prison’s Security Chief, Ramón Beúne. The prison authorities have apparently denied both the attack and Hernández’ illness. In a letter, a fellow prisoner claimed in January that Hernandez was in a 2 sq. m cell that the prison authorities had made him share with dangerous or mentally disturbed prisoners.

4) Moved on 25 February 2004 from a punishment cell to a more standard cell.

5) Hernández reported in March 2004 that his wife was stripped naked and interrogated by the prison authorities before being allowed to visit him. Reported in the same month to be suffering from abdominal problems.

6) On 7 May 2004 was transferred to Block 8, a section housing common criminals, and was beaten by prison guards for shouting anti-Castro slogans. Reportedly staged a hunger strike in protest at the move the same day as his transfer, and was sent to a punishment cell later the same month. Eventually gave up his hunger strike, presumably after coming to some agreement with the prison authorities over the cell in which he would be detained.

7) On 15 September, Hernández was transferred to a cell block containing common criminals. Later in the month he was briefly hospitalised.

8) On 22 November 2004 it was reported that his wife had been informed by the prison authorities that her husband was suffering from chronic diarrhoeia which had caused him to lose a considerable amount of weight. The condition apparently derives from a number of intestal ailments including a stomach ulcer. 

9) Hernández’ wife reported in February 2005 that the journalist had been moved to the Abel Santamaria in Pinar del Rio suffering from a number of abdominal complaints. 

10) Reported to have been transferred from the Pinar del Río hospital back to his cell at the Kilo 5½ prison on 28 July 2005. At the hospital he had undergone treatment for tuberculosis and a gastric illness.   

11) In December 2006, Normando was rushed to the hospital after suffering from fainting spells. Having lost 35 pounds for his poor gastrointestinal absorption, he was reportedly on the verge of death. On 8 December he was transferred to hospital Amalia Simoni in the province of Camaguey for treatment. He was then transferred to Kilo 7 prison in Camaguey.

12) In February 2007, Normando was beaten by a guard. He is refusing prison food until the authorities allow him to make a formal claim about this incident, though continuing to eat food brought from outside the prison. His intestinal ailments continue to make it difficult for him to eat.

13) In May 2007, Normando reportedly suffered a bout of pneumonia and a chronic parasitic infection, whilst also continuing to suffer from severe intestinal diseases. Prison doctors reportedly state that he tests positive for TB but has not developed the disease.

14) Reporters Without Borders reported that his wife had found Normando in very poor condition when she visited him on 21 June 2007. He weighed just 53 kilos.

Medical treatment remains inadequate. English PEN calls for his immediate release on medical grounds.

15)  In July 2007, it was reported that he was threatened by the prison’s head for refusing to shout a revolunary slogan.

16) On 14 September 2007, Normando was transferred from Kilo 7 Prison in Camaguey to Carlos J Finlay Hospital in Havana. He has been diagnosed with gastrointestinal malabsorption syndrome and giardiasis, and although he is now receiving regular meals and some medical attention, he is still extremely thin and in a great deal of pain.

17) On 7 May 2008, Cuban journalist Normando Hernández González was removed from the hospital where he had been receiving treatment since September last year. He has now been returned to Kilo 7 prison, where he is reportedly being kept in solitary confinement and in very poor conditions despite his continuing need for medical care. The reasons for his transfer, which occurred in secret, are not known.

18) In June 2008, his wife stated that he was being held in the prison’s infirmary, and at the end of 2008 said that her request for medical parole for that July had been met with no response.

19) Normando was reportedly admitted to the Combinado del Este prison hospital on 8 January 2009, suffering from inflammation of or a growth on his Adam’s apple. Although he received some limited medical attention it is said that he did not recive any treatment for this complaint and was returned to Kilo 7 prison on 25 February, still in ill health. On 2 April, his wife reported that she feared his health was worsening. He had suffered a prolonged bout of diarrhoea and chronic back pain, as a result of which he was having difficulties walking. She also said he was in very poor spirits.

In April 2007, Normando received the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award from American PEN.

Read Terence Blacker’s article ‘Spare a Thought for Castro’s Lonely Victims’ in the Independent

Sources include RSF.

To read two poems written by Normando, please click here.

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