14ymedio, Havana, 14 February 2018 — The headquarters of the Cuban Legal Association (Ajudicuba) in Havana’s La Víbora neighborhood was subject to a police search on Tuesday morning, with the agents seizing numerous pieces of equipment and materials that the Association uses in its work. Ajudicuba president, attorney Wilfredo Vallín, told 14ymedio that he has been accused of the crime of “illicit enrichment.”
“Around seven o’clock in the morning they knocked on the door,” Vallín told this newspaper. “There were two men from State Security, one of them we know because he attends the Association, and they informed me that they had an operation waiting below to search the house.”
At the head of the police operation, made up of seven agents, there was an officer with the rank of major who identified himself as José Luis. “First they searched the books in the library and then the archives with the files for the cases we have worked on,” he added.
In addition, a woman wearing a white coat was a part of the search team, and her task was to make a written list of all the objects seized. “The two witnesses they brought [as required by law during a police search] live on the same block and were a little distressed at having to participate in the search.”
The police insisted that the members of the Association are committing a crime by “exercising their profession without authorization from the State.” The officers insisted that the work of the independent attorneys “could not continue.”
The commanding officer showed particular annoyance over the advice that Ajudicuba provided to the #Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign, during the process to nominate independent candidates in the People’s Power elections at the end of last year. “They are very upset because we explain the details of the Electoral Law,” says the lawyer.
The search ended after noon and the police seized papers, documents, files relating to the cases on which Ajudicuba offers legal advice, USB memories, a printer and four laptops, including one that is broken, along with 1,000 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), according to Vallín.
The lawyer was taken in a police car, without handcuffs, to the station at Aguilera and Lugareño streets in Lawton, where he was told that he would be prosecuted for the alleged crime of “illicit enrichment.”
“The impression I have every time I talk to the political police is that their procedures have nothing to do with the law, because the law has not been devised for them to carry out,” says Vallín.
“They can do anything and feel above the law,” something that in their opinion is given “by the structure of the system in that there is no division of powers,” and there is “a great subordination to the executive power.”
Vallín says that this is “the first time” that the police have carried out an operation of this type against a member of Ajudicuba, but reports that in the past the organization’s attorneys have already faced several travel bans, forbidding them to leave the island.
“The last time I went to the airport to leave the country they refused to let me exit and I was not able to board the plane,” he says.
Police searches against activists have been a frequent repressive practice in Cuba, together with arbitrary arrests, confiscation of work equipment and supplies and prohibitions on leaving the country.
At the beginning of this month a police search of Havana’s independent El Círculo Gallery, managed by the activist Lia Villares and the painter Luis Trápaga, ended with the seizure of computers, still and video cameras, several hard drives, USB drives and cellphones.
Last year, the leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement, Eliécer Ávila, also faced a police search in his home after a protest he carried out at the José Martí International Airport in Havana against Customs for the confiscation of several of his belongings after his return from a trip to Colombia.
Ávila was accused of “illicit economic activity and receiving [illegal goods]” but the case was dismissed in August 2017.
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