Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, one of Cuba’s most prominent detained Christian dissidents, has urged family and friends to pray with him amid fears he may die of starvation as prison officials have denied him food for about three weeks, Assist News Service has learned.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, or CSW, and an activist Internet website dedicated to him published a letter from Dr. Biscet, which was apparently smuggled out of prison, expressing concern about the situation.
“Since June 17 I haven’t had any food brought to me, practically forcing me to be on a hunger strike. No one has given me an explanation for this, not even the prison director,” he was quoted as writing in the letter.
“I am praying to God so that his situation is resolved in the best manner possible. I ask you, my mother and my friends to read Psalm 11. I have the spiritual sustenance and the strength that God provides to all those who love him in justice and truth,” he wrote.
His wife, Elsa Morej?n Hern?ndez, told reporters recently that her husband joined other prisoners in shouting “Down with the Castro-Communist dictatorship” during a recent act of civil disobedience at the Kilo 8 prison in Pinar del Rio.
Dr. Biscet, who is known to be a Christian pro-life activist and a medical doctor opposing abortion and the death penalty as well as the Communist regime, was sentenced to 25 years on April 7, 2003, as part of a massive crackdown on human-rights activists across the island.
He was earlier sentenced to a three-year term on charges of “disrespecting patriotic symbols,” including hanging a Cuban flag upside down during a news conference, news reports said. Human-rights group Amnesty International considers Dr. Biscet, who also heads the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, a prisoner of conscience. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has reportedly called him a “crazy little man.”
Biscet is among at least over 70 dissidents accused of acts against the government.
“His detention was one of many seemingly designed to cripple a quickly growing grass-roots pro-democracy and human-rights movement that had gained international attention and support,” said CSW, which has close contacts with persecuted Christians.
Yet Biscet and the prison director reportedly made an agreement that he would be treated more humanly after being transferred from an isolation cell to a cell with common prisoners as he had been living most in of the year in darkness.
He was also promised to receive food privately and not be forced to eat in the prison dining hall, where Biscet claimed “there is inadequate hygiene, fights amongst prisoners and violations exist regarding the quality, quantity and cleanliness of the food.”
No food rations
However, Biscet said he has not received food rations for weeks now.
“This new reprisal is directed only against me since there are other prisoners who refuse to eat at the prison dining hall and their food rations are presently brought to them,” he said in the published letter.
Biscet’s family was only informed of this new regulation on June 19, during a 30-minute prison visit on Father’s Day, said the free-biscet.org website.
“The family found Dr. Biscet’s high blood pressure under control but found him very thin, having lost around 60 pounds of body weight since his incarceration in Prison Kilo 8. His teeth are totally deteriorated due to the dire prison conditions he has suffered … and the lack of medical attention which he refuses to accept because he distrusts the intentions of the military medical personnel at the prison,” free-biscet.org reported.
Prison authorities are said to have denied requests from his family for permission to bring food to Biscet “so that he does not become ill or die of starvation.”
Biscet has reportedly had two prison visits since January, but has never been permitted to receive a phone call from his family.
“The prisoners have no television, they are not permitted to have a radio, a mattress to sleep on, a fan, nor do they have access to a shower or enough water to bathe, and cells lack windows,” free-biscet.org said.
While ANS was not able to verify the claims independently, several other human-rights groups, including Amnesty International, have expressed concern over the prison conditions in Cuba and the circumstances surrounding Biscet, who has become a symbol of suffering Christians in the Communist nation.
“He was held in solitary confinement in a cell with no natural light for most of the first year of his imprisonment,” CSW added.
“The Cuban State Security’s practice of confining political prisoners together with common prisoners, many of whom have been convicted of violent crimes, has been condemned repeatedly by human-rights groups within and outside of Cuba. Numerous testimonies suggest that the common prisoners are often encouraged by the State Security officials to harass and abuse the political prisoners with whom they are being held,” said CSW.
The human-rights group said it had been calling on the UK government and the European Union to urge the Cuban authorities “to ensure that Dr. Biscet is given proper and adequate nutrition as well as any necessary medical treatment in line with the U.N.’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.”
Stuart Windsor, CSW’s national director, said: “Preventing Dr. Biscet from receiving the most basic food rations is absolutely unacceptable. The international community must communicate this to the Cuban government in the strongest possible terms.”
Free-biscet.org urged supporters to write to Dr. Biscet. PRISON KILO CINCO Y MEDIO, Carretera Luis Lazo, Provincia de Pinar del Rio, Cuba.
This report courtesy of the Assist News Service.
Stefan J. Bos is a special correspondent for Assist News Service.