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Imprisoned journalist Adolfo Fernández Sainz's health deteriorates

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 22 August 2007 IAPA press release:

IAPA hails release of independent journalist from prison in Cuba
It renews demand for release of others still behind bars

MIAMI, Florida (August 22, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today welcomed the release from prison in Cuba of independent journalist Armando Betancourt Reina and called on the authorities there to free another 27, some of whom are reported to be in very poor health.

Betancourt, with the news agency Nueva Prensa Cubana, was released from prison on August 20. He had been sentenced on July 7 to 15 months' imprisonment after being arrested, without right to bail, on May 23, 2006 while covering an eviction being carried out by officials in Camagüey province.

"We are delighted to learn of Betancourt's release, but at the same time we question why some of the 27 journalists who are suffering from serious health problems are still in prison. We also denounce the attempts to intimidate independent journalists who continue reporting despite constant harassment by the authorities and their supporters," declared Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

Several days before Betancourt's release, independent journalist Alberto Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, with the Havana Press news agency, was convicted for the second time, this time being sentenced to two years' imprisonment, two years of forced labor and another two years' probation, the Web site reported. Du Bouchet remains free pending appeal.

A Havana court convicted him on August 15 on a charge of theft of a handkerchief bearing Fidel Castro's autograph. He had been released from prison 10 days earlier after serving a one-year sentence for "showing disrespect" to a police chief.

"We have serious doubts about the real motives for this new conviction, as on previous occasions the authorities have shown their intolerance and the threats to, restrictions and surveillance of independent journalists released from prison continue," said Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre.

Meanwhile, word was received in recent days of deterioration in the health of Adolfo Fernández Sainz, who is serving a 15-year sentence in Canaleta Prison in Ciego de Avila. Fernández, according the Web site periodistas-es, is suffering from chronic hypertension, emphysema, prostatic hyperplasia and has a kidney cyst.

Fernández, a correspondent for the news agency Patria, was arrested in March 2003 with a group of 75 dissidents, among them 31 journalists, who were later found guilty on charges of alleged cooperation with the United States government.

On July 20 the IAPA Executive Committee expressed concern at the deterioration in the health of independent journalists imprisoned in Cuba and demanded their release.

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