14ymedio, Havana, 22 June 2018 – Cuban scientist and doctor of science Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, is on the sixth day of a hunger and thirst strike to demand his freedom.
At first Ruiz Urquiola demanded his right to work in prison but now “it is for his release,” his sister Omara Ruiz Urquiola told the program ‘Cuba Today’ on Radio Martí Day.
Ariel Ruiz Urquiola was sentenced last month to one year in jail for “contempt” in the Municipal Court of Viñales (Pinar del Río) after a trial that the family considered manipulated by State Security. Urquiola was arrested on the farm he leases in usufruct from the government in that locality after calling officials of the area the “rural guard,” a term that earned him an arrest and accusation of expressing contempt.
Ruiz Urquiola started the strike at the Cayo Largo work camp in Consolación del Sur, and was transferred earlier this week to the jail located at Km 5 and 1/2 of Luis Lazo, in Pinar de Río.
“My mother went to see him in prison, he is greatly weakened, and my brother said that he will not abandon the hunger and thirst strike” until his freedom is achieved, said Omara Ruiz.
Sources close to the family told this newspaper that the prison doctor “wants to give him an IV” but Ruiz Urquiola refuses. The scientist has been transferred from the jail to a health center inside the prison itself.
His sister and a group of friends delivered a letter last Tuesday to the Attorney General’s Office in which they express their “disagreement” with “the denial of the right to work” and appeal to that institution to “investigate and reverse” the current situation of the biologist.
Ruiz Urquiola has participated in several research projects on Cuban biodiversity. He also directed international research conducted between the University of Havana, the Natural History Museum of Berlin and the Humboldt University on the origin and settlement of the Sierra de los Órganos, in Pinar del Río.
In 2016, the scientist was expelled from the University of Havana Marine Research Center under the official argument of unjustified absences, but, in his opinion, it was a plot against him because he is no longer considered “reliable” by the authorities, because of his political opinions.
At the end of that same year, the biologist was arrested three times, for demanding the medicines his seriously ill sister needed. After a hunger strike and a vigil outside the Hospital Oncológico de La Habana, Ruiz Urquiola managed to obtain the drug for his sister.
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