14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 30 June 2018 – On Friday, shortly after visiting biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, on hunger strike over his sentence of one year in prison, the bishop of the Catholic diocese of Pinar del Rio, Jorge Serpa, spoke in favor of “a review of the case and of the process.”
Serpa made these comments in the course of a telephone call with 14ymedio. He explained that he spoke for more than an hour with the prisoner and was left with the impression that he was “a person with whom one can talk, with his views and convictions.”
The bishop clarified that he can not talk about the religious advice he lent to Ruiz Urquiola because, although it is not a secret of confession, it is something private. However, Serpa agreed to give a few details about the striker’s health status.
“Some people call me telling me that he is in a condition where his life is in danger. That’s not the case,” Serpa said.
“A person who can coherently carry on an hour’s conversation can not be said to be debilitated, although if his protest continues he will end up that way. Anyone who spends several days in that situation ends up debilitated.”
“He is protesting for justice to be done, so that the process in which he was condemned is reviewed. I think he’s right and it’s his right to protest.”
“Everyone who protests, if they are right, should do it. This protest is based on a conviction that Ruiz Urquiola considers flawed, and for that the best thing is to review the case and the process that led to that conviction. Everyone has the right to ask for that,” explained the bishop.
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 believed was manipulated by State Security. Urquiola was arrested on the farm he leases from the State in that locality, after calling the area’s officials “rural police,” a term that ended up with his arrest and a charge of “contempt.”
Two weeks ago, Amnesty International declared Ruiz Urquiola a prisoner of conscience and took urgent action to demand his release. On 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 Heather Nauert, spokeswoman of the US State Department.
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