According to the testimony of Lisandra Lafitta, wife of the physician and prisoner of conscience in Cuba, Dr. Luis Milán Fernández, her husband, a man free of mental ailments, has been arbitrarily confined since February 18, 2005, to a psychiatric ward of the Boniato Prison Hospital in Santiago de Cuba. Dr. Milan, serving a 13-year prison term, is forced to share a cell with patients suffering a variety of mental disorders (obsessive compulsive, schizophrenia, depressive neurosis who attempt to commit suicide, etc.). Two or three mental patients sleep in Dr. Milan’s prison cell, and some, due to their aggressiveness have annoyed and provoked him. Penal authorities follow a pattern, changing his cellmates periodically, sometimes leaving him alone.
Upon the complaints presented by Dr. Milan and his wife for this imprisonment in a psychiatric ward with mental patients, the authorities at the Boniato Prison state that “it’s the ward with the best conditions, spacious, and where he is able to remain alone for a period of time.”
Dr. Milan is unable to sleep due to the incessant mosquitoes and suffocating heat (40 degrees Celsius in the shade), which torture him in his cell. To escape this situation he sleeps on the floor, under his bed.
Following an inspection of the Boniato Prison on June 10, 2005, when trucks arrived, and guards with dogs searched every cell; Dr. Milan lost all his world maps and personal letters he had received from different countries. All supplies he used to construct crafts he made for his wife and children such as fans and miniatures of all kinds in wood and other materials were removed. As Dr. Milan is prohibited to sculpt and build, other prisoners are allowed to carry out these creative activities. According to his wife, prison authorities “become annoyed to find out that Dr. Milan finds ways to occupy his mind and his time.” Also, he is prohibited from receiving any medicines or food that his family takes him.
Dr. Milán, who is 35 years old, has always been a very healthy man. When he was transferred from the Prison of Canaleta in Ciego de Ávila (where he was confined along with 146 common prisoners) to the Combinado del Este Prison in Havana where he underwent a medical check-up, penal authorities diagnosed the following illnesses: a tumor in the left humerus, loss of hearing, pulmonary emphysema (he does not smoke but was exposed to cigarette smoke in the Prison of Canaleta), hypertension, swollen nasal turbinate, and an enlarged liver. Dr. Milán refuses to undergo the required biopsies and surgical procedures required to treat these ailments since he does not trust the medical personnel in the prison.
Dr. Luis Milán Fernández is a member of the Independent Cuban Medical Association (Colegio Médico Independiente de Cuba). In June 2001 he and his wife, a dentist, signed a document titled 'Manifiesto 2001,' calling among other measures for recognition of fundamental freedoms in Cuba. Together with other health professionals they carried out a one-day hunger strike to call attention to the medical situation of detainees and other issues.
On March 18, 2003, during a wave of repression carried out by the Cuban government, Dr. Milán was arrested and tried summarily on April 4. He was applied Law 88 and accused of "disrupting internal order, destabilizing the country and destroying the Socialist State and the independence of Cuba", and sentenced to serve 13 years in prison.
Information obtained from Cuba via telephone – Taped, transcribed, and translated by the Coalition of Cuban-American Women.
Dra. Lisandra Laffita Hernández. (Wife of Dr. Milán) Address: Edificio B27, Apt.10, Reparto Antonio Maceo, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
Photos: Dr Milan and Alexis Rodriguez, prisoners of conscience.