Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Remembering Cuban political prisoner Yosvany Arostegui Armenteros one year after his untimely death

"All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings." - Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, United Nations 1990

Yosvany Arostegui died on hunger strike on August 7, 2020

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in his 1861 book, The House of the Dead  that "the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." What does this say about the Cuban government that has barred the International Committee of the Red Cross from visiting Cuba's prisons for decades?

Cuban dissident Yosvany Arostegui Armenteros died last year on August 7, 2020 in Cuba while in police custody following a 40 day hunger strike. He had been jailed on false charges in the Kilo 8 prison of Camagüey. His body was quickly cremated by the dictatorship.
Yale professor and author Carlos Eire writing in Babalu Blog highlighted Yosvany's untimely passing and placed it in context:
It’s happened again. Another Cuban dissident has died in prison. Strangely, unlike previous hunger-striking political prisoners who received international attention, Yosvany Arostegui was barely noticed in social media and totally ignored by the world’s news outlets. He joins a long list of hunger-strikers who have been pushed to their deaths by the Castro regime. May his self-immolation in prison be the last, and may he rest in peace and eternal freedom.
Exiled Cuban lawyer and human rights defender Laritza Diversent over Facebook wrote:
I feel deep sadness and pain. I imagine how lonely he felt and how convinced he was that he preferred to exhaust his body until it was turned off. His death reminds me of the thousands of people who, in Cuban prisons, use their body to protest against unjust criminal proceedings. It makes me more aware of all the activists who, like Silverio Portal, are locked up as punishment for exercising their rights to free expression, criticize, protest, meet and associate.
On Friday, August 7, 2020 State Security contacted the family of prisoner Yosvany Aróstegui Armenteros to inform them that he had died during a hunger strike that he had carried out for 40 days. 

Yosvany Arostegui Armenteros

Aróstegui Armenteros had been arrested a year earlier and prosecuted for two common crimes for which he pleaded not guilty from the beginning. Before this last strike he had carried out others with the same objective: to demand his freedom.

As in the case of Orlando Zapata Tamayo (February 2010), Aróstegui Armenteros was transferred to Kilo 8 prison from another prison and then transferred to the Prison ward of the Amalia Simoni Hospital in the city of Camagüey. Authorities at the Kilo 8 Prison have a torture system to subject prisoners who go on strike: they isolate them, and take away their water, the only sustenance of any striker.

In the case of Zapata and thanks to pressure from opposition groups outside the Amalia Simoni hospital, his mother was able to see him and learn from his lips about the torture and denial of water to which he had been subjected. 
Yosvany Aróstegui did not have the same luck. His brother, Yaudel Aróstegui Armenteros was not allowed to see him.
“Ten days before he died, they called my brother Yaudel Arostegui Armenteros, at the hospital to appear there, when he arrived at Amalia Simoni they told him that my brother was very ill. My brother couldn't see him. A doctor who was there told my brother that the next call they were going to make would not be good, it was because he was going to die. And so it was,” Raidel Aróstegui Armenteros, who lives in exile in the state of Washington, United States, told the Center for a Free Cuba.

According to Raidel, his brother always said he was innocent of the common crimes he was accused of. The family hired an attorney who conducted investigations into the case, but a week before the trial, the attorney mysteriously died in a traffic accident.

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