EFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 25 January 2023 — A court in Havana handed down sentences which ranged from four years of “limited liberty” to 13 years in prison to 15 protesters from July 11, 2021 (11J), the largest protests in decades.
According to the decision, dated January 23, which EFE accessed this Wednesday, the People’s Provincial Tribunal in Havana convicted them of “sedition,” but issued sentences that, for the most part, were shorter than those sought by the prosecution.
The sentencing, which still is not final and could still be revised, followed a trial that took place last November and that garnered a lot of media attention on the island.
Among those on trial was Jonathan Torres, a young man who at the time of the events was 17 years old (the only minor in this trial). The minimum age of criminal responsibility in Cuba is 16. He is one of the 55 people between 16 and 17 years of age who have faced criminal prosecution for the events of 11J, as confirmed by Cuba’s Attorney General.
In Torres’s case, the tribunal sentenced him to four years of “limited liberty” (though the Prosecutor sought five.) This means that he will not go to prison, but rather, will have his movements controlled by a judge.
Similarly, three people were sentenced to correctional labor without internment and another three with internment. In the statements made to EFE, Orlando Ramírez, Torres’s step father, described the proceedings as a “show” and, although he believed the determination to be a “victory,” he added that “really [the trial against his stepson[ is an error because he did not do anything.”
In sum, sentences totaling 75 years in prison were handed down to the protesters.
The tribunal accepted as proven facts that those convicted were moving about the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo with “the purpose of generating destabilization of the social and political order established in the Republic of Cuba.”
In addition, they were accused of throwing rocks and yelling slogans against Miguel Díaz-Canel. However, according to the document, at least three of those accused denied having been present during the events.
The mothers of two of the accused were called to make statements, but they refused.
The trial took place with witnesses for the prosecution — mostly police officers — who were censored by the defense for their hesitations and changes in their testimonies, as EFE learned at the time from a source that was in the courtroom.
Similarly, during the trial, charges of “assault, public disorder, contempt and instigating a crime” were replaced by the crime of “sedition.”
This change provoked discontent among at least two of the attorneys — according to the same source — because this type of crime implies “an intention to destabilize the order of the State,” according to the Criminal Code.
According to their arguments, this cannot be proven because those 15 people participated in a protest that occurred far from the seat of power of the Cuban government.
During one of the days of the trial, two of the attorneys criticized the proceedings against the 11J protesters, as EFE learned at the time.
One of them said, “It is time the country begins to heal its wounds, it is time for the country to sit and have a dialogue, it is time for the country to create public spaces so that all people who do not think the same way can protest safely and legally without being charged with a crime.”
The Cuban Minister of Justice, Óscar Silvera, had a meeting last week with ambassadors from the European Union where they proposed a pardon for the protesters, as EFE learned.
As of now, 700 sentences have been handed down, according to the registry maintained by Justicia 11J and Cubalex. Of those cases, some sentences are as long as 30 years in jail for the crime of sedition.
Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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