14ymedio, Havana, 20 May 20, 2023 — “I am a warrior,” the opponent Sandalio Mejías Zulueta, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) said with difficulty, after being released on probation from prison on May 14. In a short video published by the organization, the activist almost bursts into tears relating the torture to which he was subjected by his jailers during the three years he was detained.
Mejías, also a promoter of the Cuba Decide citizen movement, left the prison with a notable deterioration in his health and a speech disorder. The opposition leader denounced that in prison he suffered an ischemia (decreased blood supply) in his arm and right leg, but the Cuban regime denied him medicine to treat his ailments.
The Government granted him probation for one year, he said. Despite his difficulties in expressing himself, the activist said that the “freedom of Cuba has to come, whether they want it or not.”
The Ministry of the Interior arrested the activist on January 13, 2020 in a park in Old Havana. Seven days later, he was sentenced to one year in prison in a summary trial for a common crime. Four months later, he was released on parole, but the measure was revoked and he had to remain in prison.
Before his imprisonment, Mejía had been the victim of harassment by the authorities on several occasions. In September 2019, he was arrested to prevent his participation in a peaceful march, and in October of that year he was also arrested during a demonstration in favor of political prisoners.
In a publication on May 16, the Complaint Center of the Foundation for Pan American Democracy (FDP) reported that, according to a March 2021 report, the activist did not receive medical attention after suffering facial paralysis while in prison.
The Foundation urged the Government to stop the mistreatment of the activist, as well as the rest of the Cuban political prisoners, and said that the deprivation of medical care is a “blatant violation” of his human rights.
“We call on the international community, human rights defenders and relevant organizations to join us in this urgent call and take concrete measures to guarantee the freedom and well-being of Sandalio Mejías Zulueta, and of all those who suffer repression in Cuba,” they said.
Mejías is one of the hundreds of political prisoners of the regime, along with other dissidents such as José Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU, whom the authorities have beaten, tortured and locked naked in a dungeon in the prison where he is held prisoner, according to complaints from his relatives.
Amnesty International denounced this week that there are still 768 political prisoners in the Island’s prisons, of the 1,812 people who were arrested for demonstrating against the Government after the massive protests of July 11, 2021. This figure exceeds 1,000 by adding the dozens of detainees in last year’s protests.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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