14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 15 February 2022 — On Monday, the Cuban justice system sentenced 20 protesters, including five minors, who participated in the July 11th anti-government protests, to between five and 20 years in jail for sedition.
This ruling of the Provincial Tribunal of Holguín, according to activist Salomé García Bacallao of Justicia 11J, is the first joint sentence for the crime of sedition handed down in the country as a result of last July’s protests.
The 15 convicted adults, the majority of whom are men between 18 and 59 years of age, received shorter sentences than those sought by the prosecutor. None of the accused was declared not guilty.
Two were sentenced to 20 years in prison, three to 18 years, two to 17 years, one to 15 years, two to 14 years, two to 12 years, and two to seven years. In addition, a young 18-year-old was sentenced to five years of “correctional labor without internment.”
The five minors — four 17 year-olds and one 16-year-old — for whom prosecutors were seeking sentences of between 15 and 18 years in prison, have been sentenced to “five years of limited freedom.”
The minimum criminal age in Cuba is 16 years, but those between 16 and 17 years of age may have their sentences reduced by as much as a half.
In the sentencing document, Yasmani Crespo did not appear; he was included in the docket but did not appear at the trial, according to García. There is speculation that he may have left the country.
Some activists denounced that several of those convicted were taken directly to prison following the ruling, although the sentencing document stated that they could remain free on bond until their appeal.
14ymedio spoke to Mailin Sánchez, wife of Yosvany Rosell García Caso, for whom the prosecutor sought a 30-year sentence and who was ultimately sentenced to 20 years. She only received the sentencing document on Monday, a month later.
In protest of the process which he considered unjust, García Caso went on a 17-day hunger strike in jail, said Sánchez who at the time alerted that García Caso ended up in the infirmary due to his deteriorated condition as a result of the protest. Another nine prisoners charged for 11J joined him on the hunger strike, although for fewer days.
The justice system did not publicly disclose the sentences and the official media still has not reported on the ruling, though on that day they did broadcast fragments of the trial, including witness testimony, which have been discredited, in some cases.
Activists and NGOs denounced the lack of guarantees, fabrication of evidence, and excessive penalties in these proceedings related to the largest anti-government protests in decades.
They also point to the application of the crime of sedition in the trials of the J11 protesters, for its political connotation and its ambiguous evidence.
Cuba’s attorney general recently argued that it opted for sedition charges in some cases for “the level of violence demonstrated in acts of vandalism” and “the tumultuous manner” in which they had “the deliberate intent of subverting the constitutional order” and, as a result, “seriously disrupted the public order.”
Justicia 11J, for its part, has stated on various occasions that the charge of sedition is applied arbitrarily with the goal of being exemplary, the events do not correspond to the presumed “disruption of the socialist order.”
The prosecutor stated that during the trials they verified “compliance with constitutional rights and guarantees of due process,” despite the “manipulations” that “intend to accuse Cuba of violations of human rights.”
Cuba confirmed the proceedings against 790 people, of which 55 are between 16 and 17 years old, for the events related to the protests on July 11th. Another 27 are younger than 16 years, to whom alternative measures have been applied as they are not of criminal age.
Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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