14ymedio, Havana, 8 August 2019 — On Wednesday, the People’s Municipal Court of Guantanamo requested a sanction of “one year of deprivation of liberty” which can be replaced by a year of correctional work with internment, for the independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones, accused of “resistance and disobedience.”
Quiñones, a collaborator with Cubanet, was summoned last Thursday to a trial that was held on the morning of August 7. In a telephone conversation with 14ymedio, the reporter described the process as “shameful” and explained that he has three days to file the appeal.
“The penalty would be in a forced labor camp, they will have to take me to prison because I am not going to work for them, it is depressing to see the state of Cuban justice,” said Quiñones who is also a lawyer. He also said that he asked to defend himself because, as detailed, this is allowed by Decree Law 81.
To assume his own defense, he must first obtain a certificate from the registry of jurists of the Provincial Directorate of Justice but said that the lawyer in charge of issuing the document “has missed going to the office for two days with different excuses,” first saying that “he was in a meeting” and then that he had high blood pressure.
Quiñones thought all that was a story. “State Security is here handling everything, the only thing I could do in the trial is to speak as a defendant but nobody could defend me, because they told me yesterday that ultimately I could not get the document, it was almost noon, I could no longer get the services of a lawyer.”
On Monday, the journalist had expressed in court that they were “giving him the run around with the issuance of the document” to prove his status as a lawyer registered in the Register of Jurists. “They told me that without that document I could not assume my self-defense.”
In the end, this Wednesday, half an hour before the trial, Quiñones was able to access his file to assume his defense but he refused to do so in those conditions. “I could not assume the defense. In such a short time it is impossible to look at a file and prepare for a case. I said that if they suspended the trial I accepted it but that if it was in those conditions I could not,” he denounced.
He also says that during the trial, the police officers who served as witnesses were constantly “lying in front of the court with total shamelessness…They accuse me of resistance and disobedience, and they say that I was in court that day haranguing the population and speaking counterrevolutionary slogans; for me it was something that they made the witnesses learn by heart.”
Quiñones insisted that they bring officer Víctor Víctor to testify in his case because, he says, he was in charge of his case, but they told him that it was not necessary “because the State Security has nothing to do” with this trial.
The arrest of the journalist occurred on April 22 while he waited to cover the trial against pastors Ramón Rigal and Ayda Expósito, who refused to send their children to school and insisted on homeschooling. According to his testimony he was beaten by the officers during the arrest.
“I was at the courthouse chatting with the shepherds’ daughter and the officer Victor Victor ordered me to be arrested. At no time did I resist, I did not have time to do anything because they dragged me to the car and started hitting me,” he explained with regards to what happened that day.
Quiñones plans to deliver his “appeal brief on Monday” and says that “afterwards, we must wait for the court to say whether it will hold an appeal hearing or if it will issue a final ruling.”
For the appeal the reporter has the testimonies of the only people he knows who were there on the day of the events. “It’s about the relatives of the evangelical pastors that I’m going to see but you already know the fear that we live with in this country.”
The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) criticized the Government of Cuba and ordered it to suspend the punishment and “not continue to overrun human rights.”
“Nothing surprises us about the Cuban Government, so accustomed to persecuting independent journalists in an effort to censor criticism, opinions and free information,” said IAPA President María Elvira Domínguez, director of the newspaper El País de Cali (Colombia) in her statement.
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