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Cuban Economist Oscar Espinosa Given Medical Parole Because of Poor Health

Cuban economist Oscar Manuel Espinosa Chepe was unexpectedly granted medical parole and released from prison on his 64th birthday on November 29, 2004, after serving just over 19 months of a 20-year prison sentence. In a letter to the Committee on Human Rights (CHR) Mr. Espinosa explained that his release is conditional “until my health improves.” He went on to say that:

It has been an honor and a privilege to receive the support and follow up during my imprisonment of you and the outstanding scientists which you represent, and I assure you that no words are enough to express my gratitude. … I am convinced that you have contributed in a very decisive manner to my release. … All the best to the members of your Committee, the members of the Academies and the International Network.

Mr. Espinosa’s sentence remains pending, and he has been warned by the Cuban authorities that he will be returned to prison if he repeats the “crimes” for which he was found guilty. He was one of a group of approximately 75 dissidents arrested and brought to trial in March and April 2003 in a major crackdown by the Cuban government. He was charged with “activities against the integrity and sovereignty of the State” for allegedly receiving money from abroad and collecting press clippings about meetings between representatives of the United States and Cuban dissidents. Following a summary trial of only a few hours that failed to meet international fair trial standards in numerous substantive ways, he was convicted on April 3, 2003. Following his trial, Mr. Espinosa and the 74 other dissidents were adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

Mr. Espinosa reportedly suffers from cirrhosis of the liver, among other serious ailments. His poor health declined seriously during his incarceration, requiring his transfer from prison to a military hospital for about a year. His family had expressed concern about his unhygienic conditions of confinement, the lack of information given to them about his medical condition, and the treatment he was receiving. At the time of his release, Mr. Espinosa was held at the ‘Combinado del Este’ maximum security prison in Havana.