Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Cuban protesters facing long prison sentences

HAvana ( Associated Press) — Cuban courts have ended the trial of six mass trials for people accused of being involved in the largest and most rampant protests on the island in decades, leaving a potentially overwhelming number of more than 100 defendants. Awaiting punishment.

Relatives of defendants and activists – the last of which ended this week – said after trials in several cities across the island were sought by prosecutors for crimes including treason, public disorder and assaults, up to 30 years in prison. No date has been announced for sentencing.

On July 11 and 12, thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest goods shortages, power blackouts and economic hardship in several cities – some even calling for a change in government.

At least one person died and several shops and vehicles were vandalized or burnt. Officials did not say how many people were detained, but Justice 11J, an organization set up to track cases, has registered 1,300 arrests and says more than 400 have been prosecuted so far.

Officials said in August that there had been 23 summary trials of 67 defendants on lesser charges.

Groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused the government of responding to mostly peaceful protests with arbitrary arrests and crackdowns meant to quell dissent, which the government disputes.

The extended Roman family was responsible for at least six of those arrested after the July 12 protests in Havana’s La Guinera neighborhood, in which a protester died. Two days after the protest, all were detained in the same house.

Neither of them had any previous problems with the authorities, according to Maria Carla Milan, wife of Yosni Roman, who faces a possible 20-year sentence.

Laborer Yosni, 25, and his 18-year-old brother Amioslan were defendants in a trial in Havana, while their 24-year-old sister, Macianis, has yet to be given a court date.

Three cousins ​​were also taken into custody, one of them being one of the current defendants. Another cousin, Odlanier Rodriguez, was freed after 22 days in prison after being fined the equivalent of $83.

During the most recent trial, the defendants “recognized that throwing stones at the police was a mistake,” said Milan, who attended the hearing. “He repented of what he had done. They got caught up in the excitement. He has no criminal record and is not a criminal. He’s never had a problem before.”

“But they are very small,” she said. “This number of years (sought by prosecutors) is an abuse.”

Many of the protesters had no previous record of political activism and no clear leadership of the protest, although the government has accused US-based opposition groups of attempting to organize demonstrations with a social media campaign.

The father of the Roman siblings, Emilio Roman, said that none of the six family members had political involvement.

“I’ve never seen anything like this (performance),” said cousin Rodriguez. “I stopped at the corner to watch.”

He said he felt like people joined in because they were tired of the long lines and the lack of food.

Cuban officials acknowledged that some of the complaints were justified and President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited La Guinera, where officials promised additional social programs in the wake of the protests.

Salome Garcia. An activist for Justice 11J said the trials were meant to be “exemplary” because only a small percentage of protesters face serious charges.

He said treason charges were leveled in La Guinera, where there were no cases of looting, while no such charges were filed in the central province of Matanzas, where there were cases of patrol cars overturning.


Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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