Cuban librarian nears death in hunger strike

Leonardo Bruzón Avila, the director of the 24th of February Children’s
Library, located in Havana, is reported to be at the point of death after being transferred to the hospital wing of the Combinado del Este Prison.  He has been on a hunger strike for 40 days to protest his two years of imprisonment without charge or trial. He refuses to eat unless he is either charged with a crime or set free.

                        
April 9, 2004

       
URGENT: Jailed Librarian Reported Near Death

Leonardo Bruzón Avila, the director of the 24th of February Children’s
Library, located in Havana, is reported to be at the point of death after being
transferred to the hospital wing of the Combinado del Este Prison.  He has been
on
a hunger strike for 40 days to protest his two years of imprisonment without
charge or trial. He refuses to eat unless he is either charged with a crime or
set free.  According to family members who contacted the press on his behalf,
Mr. Bruzón Avila now weighs approximately 80 pounds (36 kilos) and suffers
from weak vital signs.  Leonardo Miguel Bruzón Avila has been named as a
Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International, which is calling for his
immediate
and unconditional release.

According to unconfirmed reports, members of the Bruzón Avila family  were
removed from their home yesterday (April 8) by the secret police; their present
location is unknown. Also, the press credentials have been canceled for a BBC
reporter who has issued news reports on the prisoner’s situation.

ACTION NEEDED: The Friends of Cuban Libraries are asking the public to send
immediate appeals to President Fidel Castro on behalf of Leonardo Bruzón Avila.
Please ask for urgent medical attention to save his life.  We hope he will
soon be released from prison, but at the present time fast action is needed to
prevent Leonardo Miguel Bruzón Avila from dying.  Courteous appeals can be
sent to President Castro c/o the Cuban delegation to the United Nations at:
(cuba@un.int) with COPIES to (cuba@embacuba.ca) AND (eliadesa@bnjm.cu).

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

From an appeal issued in 2001 by Amnesty International, regarding a previous
arrrest of Leonardo Miguel Bruzón Avila:

“Human rights defender Leonardo Bruzón Avila was reportedly arrested on 5
September (2001) after he set up an independent video library for children in
the capital, Havana….

“He reportedly opened the video library on 12 August, with a screening of
the Disney film Hercules, which many children came to. Leonardo Bruzón is
President of the Movimiento Pro Derechos Humanos 24 de Febrero, 24 February
Human Rights Movement named for the date in 1996 on which
two planes belonging to a Cuban exile group were shot down by the Cuban
airforce. He named the library, in his home in Havana, ‘The 24 February
Library’….

“Leonardo Bruzón has been repeatedly detained and harassed. In August this
year he and other opponents of the government were arrested and briefly
detained to prevent them taking part in a demonstration calling for the
release of political prisoners, in which they were planning to stand with
candles in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary in the Virgen del Camino
park in Havana. On 3 December 2000 he and other dissidents were detained
to prevent them taking part in a demonstration to celebrate Human Rights
Day….”

Sincerely,

The Friends of Cuban Libraries

Author: Friends of Cuban Libraries

News Service: Friends of Cuban Libraries

URL: http://www.friendsofcubanlibraries.org