Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Family travels to Cuban jail to aid Alberta man on hunger strike

 Canadian Press

EDMONTON (CP) - The family of a city man languishing in a Cuban jail was waiting at the prison's gates Tuesday,
frightened and worried over the oilfield worker's health as he enters his second week of taking neither food nor

"Physically he's doing horrible," said Perry King's sister Carmen Frunchak. "Mentally, I was told by my doctor it
could be called dehydration deliriousness where he goes in and out of very bad mood swings." King, 40, has
been held since the summer on accusations of sexual contact with a minor, but he has never been charged and
no trial is in sight.

The hunger strike, his second since being arrested, is an attempt to get some action on his case.

King's mother and one sister were outside the gates of Combinaro del Sur near Matanzas anxiously waiting for
prison officials to allow them to visit. They are terrified that King has weakened to the point where a heart attack
is imminent.

Permission from the Cuban government has already been granted, said Frunchak, who remained behind in

"(King)'s very anemic, very low-energy," she said. "He has some numbness happening in his right leg.

"When I last spoke with him on December 11, he had started some diarrhea, which is indicating some very bad
things going on internally."

Cuban officials detained King in August to investigate allegations he had sexual contact with a minor about two
years ago, but his family says he is innocent.

Under Cuban law, King can be held in jail indefinitely until an investigation is complete or a trial scheduled.

That's standard practice in Cuba, said department of foreign affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron.

"We're talking here of a system where before we know whether charges will be pressed a judicial investigation
has to be completed," he said.

"Cuban authorities can hold (foreigners) until such an investigation is completed or until a trial takes place."

Canadian officials in Cuba are in almost daily contact with prison officials regarding King, Doiron said.

"We're staying in touch with him, either directly or through the jail authorities. We're pretty much aware of
everything that's going on."

Canada is satisfied King is getting proper medical care and is receiving the same judicial treatment a Cuban
would get, said Doiron.

Doiron said embassy officials have been able to get medical help for King but he can't reveal exactly what has
been done.

But King's family says he is close to a mental collapse and has already lost 50 pounds off his 170-pound frame
because of a 56-day hunger strike last fall.

King doesn't trust the prison doctor and refuses his help, Frunchak said.

"He's very unsure and does not trust anyone there."

Although King's circumstances have improved since his first arrest - he now has a window and a bed - Frunchak
says they're still pretty rough.

There is no communication with the outside world, although books are allowed. King hasn't been allowed a
shower in three weeks and cleans himself with bottled water supplied by his family.

Frunchak described her brother as despondent after indications of a December trial fell through.

"He believes they'll say what you want to hear and nothing ever gets done."

King was in Cuba working in the oilpatch. Frunchak said he and his Cuban girlfriend visited Canada this summer,
then returned for one more month of work.

When King tried to leave at the end of August, he was told of the allegations, was relieved of his passport and
not allowed to travel. About a week later, he was arrested.

                         © Copyright  2003 The Canadian Press