Arrests and Threats for Cuban Activists During the Trial of Alcantara and Osorbo

Caption: Police control access to the tribunal where the trial against the artists will take place in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 30 May 2021 — On Monday, May 30th, an impenetrable operation guarded the Tribunal in Marianao in Havana, where the first day of the trial was held for Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Osorbo.

Some witnesses who were able to attend the oral arguments relayed to 14ymedio that, based on the behavior of the Tribunal and the Prosecutor, they sensed that the trial ended on Monday, though officially it is planned to last two days. Outside the building where the trial was held, the operation the regime maintained in the afternoon was impressive.

Patrol cars, ambulances, buses, countless undercover State Security agents and uniformed police remained in the surrounding area, confirmed artist Julio Llópiz-Casal, who attended along with painter Lázaro Saavedra, called by Alcántara’s defense.

Saavedra’s wife also attended but was unable to enter the tribunal. Without looking at a list he had in hand, she said, a State Security agent let the first two pass after looking at their faces and prevented her from entering.

According to Llópiz-Casal, who was only able to enter the courtroom where the trial was held when it was his turn to testify, the space was large and from where he was seated, he was unable to make eye contact with Alcántara. While he was testifying, the questions centered on emphasizing “his basis for endorsing [the activist’s] artistic trajectory.”

Moreover, the political police arrested actor Daniel Triana, reported independent journalist Claudia Padrón Cueto. Triana himself shared a video in which he declared his intention to leave his house “in protest” and solidarity with the prosecuted artists. Before crossing the threshold, he passed the phone to his sister, Amanda, who filmed how the agent that “attends him,” Adrián, attempted to block the actor and attack him and the young woman. “Call the patrol car because I’m going out,” Triana says to the opressor; he [Triana] managed to walk a few steps from his house and get lost in the distance.

Similarly, Camila Acosta was arrested while leaving her house. “Two police officers and two women dressed as civilians stopped me and put me, without explanation, into patrol car No. 786. I was headed to a meeting with my lawyer,” the journalist posted on her social media. “The State Security official let me go some 20 minutes later, when he spoke with his superiors, though not before warning me that my criminal case was still pending and I was under house arrest, and that “any crime” committed would aggravate my situation,” she explained, referring to the public disorder charge against her for reporting on July 11th. “I have not paid the fine they imposed last week,” Acosta explained. She recalled, “I signed an act of freedom, I am a free person (though in a dictatorship). Any arrest or preventing my public movement is a violation of my human rights.”

Dagoberto Valdés, director of Convivencia magazine, also received threats; he stated that a chief of police summoned him on Monday at 2 pm “in the sector” in Pinar del Río.

Since the early morning hours, part of 14ymedio‘s team in Havana has been without internet conection. On the ground floor of Luz Escobar‘s building, which is also without internet, there is already a guard to prevent her from leaving. Afrika Reina, a close friend of the artist and a member of the San Isidro Movement, has also denounced that an officer arrived at her house at 6:21 to tell her she could not leave nor go to the courtroom as she had intended. The journalist and activist María Matienzo is also under surveillance.

A white vehicle transported a Swedish diplomat who attempted to cross the police perimeter, but the agents did not allow it. (14ymedio)

Access to the Marianao Tribunal is closed and unauthorized vehicles are not allowed, as confirmed by 14ymedio. A white vehicle transporting a Swedish diplomat attempted to cross the police barrier, but the agents did not allow it. Outside it, international media, such as AFP and diplomats from Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands remained.

“We simply want to enter to observe the trial and until now we have not received permission,” said a German diplomat in statements made to international media, picked up by EFE. The diplomat added that they will continue placing “much attention” on the case and assured, “We want human rights to be respected in all places and countries.”

This daily counted at least one hundred agents guarding the location and several points under surveillance on 33rd street. Neighbors in that area added that, next to the nearby playground there was a rapid response brigade vehicle and there were undercover State Security agents at the street corners. The only cameras in the area were those of the state-run national television and the traffic is building, since the block is closed off.

Access to the Marianao Tribunal is closed and unauthorized vehicles cannot pass, as this newspaper confirmed. (14ymedio)

The trial began around 9:00 in the morning and during the previous days both opponents have been subjected to new arbitrariness by the authorities.

The artist and leader of the San Isidro Movement has been punished and not allowed to make phone calls for having released an audio recorded on May 17th and shared by Claudia Genlui. In it he spoke of the repression he has suffered in the last years, the regime’s offer to release him in exchange for exile, which he rejected; and of the fighting spirit he wishes to transmit to his son and all Cuban people. Otero Alcántara has been in Guanajay prison since July 2021 when he was arrested before he was able to join the protests on the 11th of that month.

For his part, Osorbo has been punished with a change of attorney a few hours before his trial and all the damage that could entail. The information was provided by Anamey Ramos, who on Friday explained that the rapper’s attorney, Ginett del Solar Vega, was disqualified by authorities.

These events occurred the day before when, during a visit to Villa Marista prison, where Maykel Castillo has been transferred after a year in detention, she was informed that “she had had some problems at the law firm and they had restricted her from trials until August 1st.” As of now, Yoilandris Savón is in charge of his defense.

“An act such as this is very suspicious, just days before the trial. For us it was pretty obvious that it was a new trap set by State Security, to which the Cuban judicial system lends itself. It is odd that an attorney is removed from trials that are already scheduled, in any case new contracts, and less than a week before the trial,” said Ramos who demanded answers from the law firm and again requested that foreign press, diplomats on the Island and foreign governments cover the proceedings which began on Monday.

About twenty Cuban exiles met at Callao plaza in Madrid, among them Yunior García Aguilera, Mónica Baró, Hamlet Lavastida, Carolina Barrero, Yanelis Núñez and Heidi Hassan. (Facebook/Alicia Fernandez Acebo)

This morning, some Spanish media outlets extensively covered the start of the trial.

On social media, the San Isidro Movement has also requested support from the population, through the promotion of hashtags #freeMaykelOsorbo #FreeLuisma and #LibertadParaLosPresosPoliticos. Furthermore, several actions are planned abroad. In Miami, at 6 pm, a human chain will be formed outside the Hermitage of Our Lady of Charity, while in Madrid a similar activity took place outside the Sun Gate at 7 pm.

On social media, the San Isidro Movement has also requested support from the population, through the promotion of hashtags #freeMaykelOsorbo #FreeLuisma and #LibertadParaLosPresosPoliticos. The small protest in the Spanish capital was attended by about twenty Cubans, among them Yunior García Aguilera, Mónica Baró, Yanelis Núñez, Heidi Hassan, Hamlet Lavastida and Carolina Barrero, who met at Callao plaza and marched along Preciados street to the Sun Gate.

Otero Alcántara is facing seven years in prison for aggravated contempt, public disorder and instigating a crime while prosecutors seek for Osorbo ten years for assault, public disorder and evasion by a prisoner or a person under arrest.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued a joint statement requesting support from the international community for what they consider a trial for “exercising their human right to criticize their own Government… Latin American governments should not remain silent when artists are threatened with prison sentences, a demonstration of extreme intolerance typical of the brutal dictatorships that governed the region in the past.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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