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Washington File

02 June 2003

Health of Imprisoned Cuban Dissidents Concerns U.S.

(State Department calls for release of 75 political prisoners) (420)
The United States is concerned about the health of several political
prisoners in Cuba, according to a June 2 statement issued by State
Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker.
Reeker said that several of the 75 Cuban dissidents arrested and
sentenced to long jail terms in March 2003 are ill and require
immediate access to adequate health care. He called on the Cuban
government to immediately release all 75 of the political prisoners
or, at a minimum, provide them with the necessary health care, cease
the inhumane treatment of these prisoners and allow humanitarian
organizations to monitor their treatment.
Following is the text of Reeker's statement:
(begin text)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
June 2, 2003
STATEMENT BY PHILIP T. REEKER, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN
U.S. Concern about the Health of Oscar Espinosa Chepe and Other
Political Prisoners
The United States is deeply concerned over the Cuban government's
treatment of Cuban political prisoner Oscar Espinosa Chepe. According
to his wife and other family members, Mr. Chepe may die if he is not
transferred immediately from prison hospital to a better facility in
Havana. This Cuban political prisoner is suffering from liver disease,
edema, gastrointestinal bleeding, and other symptoms indicating a
serious medical condition. The United States demands that the Cuban
government provide Mr. Chepe with adequate health care and transfer
him to a hospital where he can receive the level of care commensurate
with his illness.
Mr. Chepe is a 62-year old independent journalist, and is one of 75
independent activists, journalists, and librarians arrested and
sentenced to long jail terms in March 2003. He was arrested and
sentenced to prison for 28 years on trumped up treason charges. His
only real crime was to call for peaceful change in Cuba. Mr. Chepe and
all 75 of these political prisoners should be released immediately.
The United States is also concerned by reports that political
prisoners Raul Rivero, Martha Beatriz Roque, Jorge Olivera, and
Roberto de Miranda are also ill. All should be given immediate access
to adequate health care. Many of the 75 prisoners are being held in
inhumane conditions, with very poor sanitation, contaminated water,
and nearly inedible food. The Cuban government appears to be going out
of its way to treat these prisoners inhumanely. It should immediately
cease this practice and, at the minimum, allow the appropriate
humanitarian organizations to monitor the treatment of its political
prisoners.
(end text)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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