Omar Ruiz Hernández

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Ruiz Hernández, a reporter for the Havana-based independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro in the province of Villa Clara, was arrested on March 19, 2003, during the massive crackdown on the island’s dissidents and independent press. He was sentenced in April to 18 years in prison for acting “against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state” under Article 91 of the Cuban penal code.

The reporter, 62, was being held in Nieves Morejón Prison in the central province of Sancti Spíritus, 40 miles (65 kilometers) from his home, his wife, Bárbara Maritza Rojo Arias, told CPJ. He shared quarters with 11 prisoners in a small barracks, she said. The quarters, which he was rarely permitted to leave, had no ventilation and poor lighting. Rojo Arias said other living conditions–including his meals–improved at the prison over the course of 2009. He was allowed a family visit of two hours every two months, his wife told CPJ.

Ruiz Hernández suffered from depression and loss of eyesight. He was also diagnosed with high blood pressure, circulatory problems, and chronic gastrointestinal ailments. Rojo Arias told CPJ that her husband was being treated by prison doctors and that she was allowed to provide him with additional medication.