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Cuban gov't denies prisoner who died was a dissident

Published:Saturday | January 21, 2012 | 6:03 PM

The Cuban government has denied that a man who died in custody on Thursday was a political prisoner who had been on a hunger strike.

State-controlled media said 31-year-old Wilman Villar had been in jail for beating his wife, and died of pneumonia despite intense medical efforts to save him.

At least one dissident group has reported that Mr Villar was a member of the opposition Patriotic Union of Cuba. Human rights activists also insist that he was a dissident and had been refusing food for 50 days after being detained during a protest.

But in a statement today the Cuban government said Mr Villar died in hospital in Santiago Cuba on Thursday from multiple organ failure and septic shock resulting from pneumonia.