Summary and Current Status
On July 15, 2010, after serving more than 7 years of his 13-year prison term, Cuban medical doctor Luis Milán Fernández was released from a prison "work camp" in Santiago de Cuba and flown to Spain with members of his family.
Dr. Milán was arrested on March 18, 2003, after he peacefully advocated for the drafting of a new Cuban constitution. He was one of 75 Cubans who were arrested, summarily tried, and convicted as part of a massive crackdown by the Cuban government. Amnesty International adopted all of these individuals, including Dr. Milán, as prisoners of conscience.
Dr. Milán is a medical doctor by profession and member of the unofficial Cuban Independent Medical Association (Colegio Médico Independiente de Cuba) in Santiago de Cuba. In June 2001, he and his wife, Lisandra Laffita Hernández, who is a dentist, were among the signatories of a document entitled “2001 Manifesto” (Manifiesto 2001). It demanded a new constitution that provides for the rights and liberties of all Cubans while preserving the independence of the nation; a greater economic opening to provide incentives to small and medium-sized companies while preserving free access to education and health care; and a general amnesty for political prisoners. Together with other health professionals, they carried out a one-day hunger strike to call attention to the medical situation of detainees.
Dr. Milán was arrested on March 13, 2003. He was brought to trial shortly thereafter, convicted under “Law 88 for the Protection of the National Independence and Economy of Cuba,” and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Law 88 imposes up to 20 years in prison on anyone who is found guilty of committing “acts that in agreement with imperialist interests are aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroy its political, economic and social system.”
During his imprisonment, Dr. Milán was held in several different prison facilities. Initially, Dr. Milán was sent to the Ciego de Avila provincial prison (known as “Canaleta”), where he reportedly was confined with 146 common prisoners. From there, reports indicate that he was briefly transferred to the hospital unit at Combinado del Este maximum security prison in Havana to undergo a medical check-up. According to reliable reports, he was transferred on February 18, 2005, to the psychiatric ward of Boniato Prison in the province of Santiago de Cuba, even though his wife attested that, “he has never suffered from any emotional or mental problems.” While held in this location, he alternated between being alone in a cell and sharing it with two or three mental patients, some of whom were aggressive and made it difficult for him to sleep or read. During a prison visit in June 2007, Dr. Milán reportedly told his wife that one of the mental patients had cut one of his own ears off.
In mid-August 2008, Dr. Milán reportedly was transferred to “Tarea Confianza work camp” on the “Mar Verde” highway in Santiago de Cuba. This low-security facility is part of Cuba’s prison system.
With regard to Dr. Milán’s health, according to information provided by Dr. Laffita on March 8, 2010, he has been suffering from pancreatitis and a tumor in the left humerous which causes numbness in his arm. Despite recommendations that he undergo biopsies and surgery to treat these ailments, Dr. Milán, himself a physician, reportedly refused because he did not trust the prison doctors.
On July 8, 2010, following private conversations between Cuban President Raúl Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega of the Roman Catholic Church and during a visit by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to the island, an announcement was made that over the course of the next 4 months the Cuban government would release from prison all 52 men who remained in prison from the original group of 75 mentioned in the summary section above. One week later, Dr. Milán was released from prison and flown to Spain, together with several members of his family. His release reportedly was conditioned upon his immediate departure for Spain, which had agreed to accept the prisoners and their families.