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Journalist Normando Hernández González removed from hospital, returned to prison, held in complete isolation in life-threatening conditions

(PEN/IFEX) - The following is a PEN American Center press release:

Cuban Writer Removed from Hospital, Returned to Prison
Normando Hernández González Kept in Isolation Cell

New York, New York, May 30, 2008 - In what PEN has called a "shocking and very discouraging turn of events," writer and independent journalist Normando Hernández González has been removed from a hospital where he was receiving essential medical treatment and returned to Kilo 7 Prison in Camagüey, Cuba, where he is reportedly now being held in complete isolation in life-threatening conditions.

According to PEN's information, on May 7, Hernández was discharged from the Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital in Havana, where he had been diagnosed with several diseases of the digestive system, and sent to Kilo 7 Prison. He has reportedly been placed in an isolation cell where he is completely cut off from the world and his fellow inmates and is reportedly receiving inadequate food and no medical attention. His wife was only permitted to see him for five minutes since the transfer, and has expressed serious concerns for his well-being.

Hernández, who won the 2007 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, is still in dire need of proper medical treatment.

During part of a massive crackdown that became known as "Black Spring," Normando Hernández Gonzalez, now aged 38, was arrested on March 18, 2003 in his hometown of Camagüey along with 74 other journalists considered to be dissidents by the Cuban government. He was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment under Article 91 of the Cuban Criminal Code for reporting on the conditions of state-run services in Cuba and for criticizing the government's management of issues such as tourism, agriculture, fishing, and cultural affairs.

Hernández was brutalized and kept in appalling conditions at both Kilo 5.5 Prison and Kilo 7 Prison, which left him with rapidly deteriorating health. Before his transfer to the Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital on September 14, 2007, he had lost at least 35 lbs. He was diagnosed with several medical conditions including tuberculosis, lesions in his stomach and tumors in his gallbladder.

"We are deeply dismayed that the Cuban government, which recently signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, would renege on international obligations to protect and respect the universal right to freedom of expression," said Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. "Normando Hernández González's ordeal is known around the world, and the international community is watching these latest developments with great concern. We urge Raúl Castro to rethink this misguided move and instead to order his immediate release."

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world's oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN's work, please visit http://www.pen.org/freedom

Updates the Hernández González case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/84565

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