Díaz Hernández, executive director of the independent news service Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes (CAPI), was imprisoned during all of 2000 at the Canaleta prison, but was released on January 17, 2001.
On January 18, 1999, the journalist was arrested at his home in the town of Morón, in the central province of Ciego de &AACUTE;vila, by officers of the Revolutionary National Police (PNR). The next day he was convicted of “dangerousness” and sentenced to four years in prison by the Morón Municipal Court. Díaz Hernández subsequently started a hunger strike and refused to drink water after his detention to appeal the conviction.
After a summary session on January 22, 1999, the Provincial Court in Ciego de &AACUTE;vila confirmed Díaz Hernández’s sentence even though he was not permitted to have his attorney present (he was represented by a state-appointed lawyer). He ended his hunger strike on January 28 and began drinking liquids.
In July of the same year, Díaz Hernández started another hunger strike, this one lasting 17 days. In September, after spending eight months in solitary confinement, the journalist was transferred to a section of the prison where other inmates convicted of “dangerousness” were held.
CPJ’s local sources reported that on November 11, 1999, just before the Ninth Ibero-American Summit held in Havana, Díaz Hernández went on a third hunger strike to call for a general amnesty for political prisoners in Cuba. He was again placed in solitary confinement, even though his sentence calls for correctional work in a labor camp.
On November 23, 1999, CPJ honored Díaz Hernández with an International Press Freedom Award. Guests at the awards ceremony in New York City signed 312 postcards urging President Fidel Castro Ruz to release the journalist immediately. The postcards were delivered via Federal Express to the Cuba Interests Section in Washington D.C. on February 4, 2000.
In July 2000, Díaz Hernández’s colleagues reported that the journalist was suffering from hepatitis and was not receiving proper medical treatment. Díaz Hernández’s condition was diagnosed only after his family took a urine sample without the prison guards’ knowledge. The same month, prison guards took Díaz Hernández’s books away from him, and forbade his relatives to bring any books to the journalist.
Last October, Díaz Hernández was placed in a cell with nine other inmates convicted of “dangerousness,” according to CAPI. Because his family gave him medicines and vitamins, he appeared to have recovered from hepatitis. Although Díaz Hernández was allowed to have books again in his cell, prison guards at Canaleta continued to withhold some of his books and letters that they had confiscated in July.
On January 17, 2001, without explanation, prison authorities summoned the journalist’s parents to Canaleta prison. Once they arrived, Díaz Hernández was released, bearing a document stating that his sentence had been suspended. Having served two years, Díaz Hernández was at the midpoint of his sentence.