14ymedio, Havana, 3 July 2018 — The biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, sentenced to one year in prison for the alleged crime of “contempt of authority,” was released on Tuesday, 14ymedio confirmed through sources related to the case.
“I feel alive, I do not fear death, but I can not stop thanking all the people inside and outside of Cuba who helped me to survive,” Ruiz Urquiola told Radio Martí after being released.
The family reported that the extrapenal license granted to the scientist was for “anxiety depression affective syndrome” and that the authorities could return him to prison whenever they choose.
Ruiz Urquiola had been transferred on Monday to a civil ward of Abel Santamaría Hospital in the city of Pinar del Río, after spending two weeks on hunger strike demanding his release.
A nurse confirmed to this newspaper last night that the biologist’s condition was considered “good, satisfactory,” that he was in a “progressive care” room, and that he had already taken “two little drinks of juice.”
The case of the biologist has generated a wave of national and international solidarity, which was joined by even pro-government voices such as singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez.
In his blog Segunda Cita, Rodríguez exchanged opinions with a commentator on the biologist’s situation and the solidarity that his cause was attracting on an international level. “Hopefully our authorities will analyze the case with serenity and not allow themselves be provoked by these circumstances and resolve everything with dialogue, inclusion and maturity.” The artist said that “when they went to arrest him, he recorded the conversation with the forest rangers. A guilty person does not do that.”
Ruiz Urquiola manages an agro-ecological project on a farm that he leases from the government in Viñales, Pinar del Río, and after an altercation with some officials in the area he was sentenced to one year deprivation of liberty, the maximum penalty for the crime of “contempt” which is frequently used to bring charges against opponents and activists.
During his professional career the biologist has repeatedly denounced the damage to the Cuban ecosystem, such as the indiscriminate felling of trees, the hunting of endangered species and the dumping of toxic substances in the waters of the Viñales Valley.
According to Cubanet , the scientist’s father, Máximo Omar Ruiz Matoses, was a senior officer of the Cuban army and “served 17 years in prison for challenging the Castro regime.” After his sentence, he went into exile in Spain and says that the case against his son is “revenge for the family history.”
Amnesty International declared Ruiz Urquiola a prisoner of conscience and took urgent action to demand his release. Last Tuesday, the United States asked Cuba for the “immediate” release of all political prisoners on the island and expressed its special concern for the cases of Eduardo Cardet and Ariel Ruiz Urquiola.
“The cases of Dr. Ariel Ruiz Urquiola and Dr. Eduardo Cardet, both highlighted by a human rights organization as ‘prisoners of conscience’, are just two examples of how the Cuban government continues to silence the peaceful opposition of its own citizens,” said US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
Last week the bishop of Pinar del Rio, Jorge Serpa, visited the biologist at the hospital and spoke in favor of “a review of the case and the judicial process” against him, as he told 14ymedio.
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