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Jailed Cuban dissident Wilman Villar dies after hunger strike

A jailed Cuban dissident died on Thursday following a 56-day hunger strike, activists said.
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

A jailed Cuban dissident died on Thursday following a 56-day hunger strike, activists said.

Wilman Villar, 31, was arrested on Nov. 12. He was later convicted of disrespecting authority and resisting arrest and was ordered to spend four years in prison. Villar protested his sentence by stopping eating.

Villar was taken to a hospital last week as his condition deteriorated. Villar died Thursday night in the eastern city of Santiago.

Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission of Human Rights said Villar joined an opposition group called the Cuban Patriotic Union last summer and had been an active dissident since then.

"We hold the Cuban government categorically responsible because he died under their care. We consider this another avoidable death," Sanchez said.

Reuters reported that Villar's hunger strike lasted 56 days.

Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted the news of Villar's death and asked "How many more have to die? How many more?"

Cuba drew international condemnation when another imprisoned dissident, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died in February 2010 after an 85-day hunger strike.

President Raul Castro said Zapata was just a common criminal, but his death is believed to have contributed to Castro's decision in the summer of 2010 to release 130 political prisoners in a deal brokered by the Roman Catholic Church.

Zapata was classified a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International, but Villar's case has drawn little attention.