By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
HAVANA, CUBA (BosNewsLife) -- Prison authorities have "brutally beaten" Jorge Luis GarcÃa Perez (Antunez), an influential Christian dissident serving an 18-year prison sentence in Cuba on charges of "spreading propaganda", he and fellow activists confirmed Friday, August 25.
Antunez, 41, was beaten this week after he began a hunger strike Monday, 21, to demand spiritual and medical assistance, BosNewsLife learned. In a statement smuggled out of the Kilo 7 Prison in Cuba's province of Camaguey Antunez urged Cubans not to cooperate with what he called "the dictatorship."
In remarks obtained by BosNewsLife, his sister said she was "extremely worried" about the health of her well-known brother. "I am extremely worried, I feel horrible because [as] I have just learned my brother was fiercely beaten [while] he was handcuffed," said Bertha Antunez Pernet.
"This is a grave injustice and abuse, and they will have to respond for this situation. They did not have to beat him, but rather comply with what he is demanding," she added.
His sister stressed she was "accusing all those people who took part in this, I am making them responsible, the prison administration and the cowards who put their dirty hands on the body of a defenseless political prisoner [while] they had him restrained."
Antunez received an 18-year prison sentence in March 1990 on charges of spreading "enemy propaganda" after being critical of the country's communist regime.
He has often been confined in solitary confinement in a "tiny, sealed cell with no light or bedding, typically overflowing with excrement and infested with rats and insects," reported advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) which supports him.
Authorities have also repeatedly confiscated his Bible and denied him water, medical attention and clothes, Christians said. This week's reported violence against him came after previous reports of beatings and torture. Cuba has denied reports of torture and mistreatment of prisoners.
The United States has made clear it hopes for a new era of more political and religious freedom on the Communist island after the death of Fidel Castro. The ailing 80-year old Cuban leader put his brother Raul in temporary charge of the Cuban government July 31 as he prepared for intestinal surgery.
Although the specifics of Castro's medical problem have been treated as a secret in Cuba, a former top CIA analyst for Latin America said Thursday, August 24, he doesn't believe he will live much longer.
Brian Latell, author of a biography of Fidel Castro, told The Associated Press (AP) news agency that he expects Raul Castro to forge a relationship with the United States, a move that is expected to positively impact political and religious prisoners. (With BosNewsLife reports from Cuba).
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