EFE/14ymedio, Havana, 25 November 2022 — At least two lawyers for fifteen anti-government demonstrators criticized legal proceedings against their clients in open court on Thursday. The fifteen are being tried for participating in public protests on July 11 of last year, the largest such demonstrations in Cuba in decades.
A source who was in the Havana courtroom on the second day of the trial said the fifteen defendants were charged with assault, public disorder, contempt and incitement to commit a crime. The defense attorneys discounted the witnesses and evidence presented by the prosecutor.
The source told the Spanish news agency EFE that she was surprised to see that all the lawyers were state attorneys. “None of them are independent,” she said, adding, “I have to say that I fear for their safety.”
The source quoted one attorney as saying, “It is time for the country to start healing its wounds. It is time for the country to sit down and talk. It is time for the country to create public spaces so that all those who think differently can demonstrate safely and legally without being charged with a crime.”
Similarly, another attorney quoted a line by Cuban poet and national hero Jose Martí: “With all and for the good of all.”
The source reported that the prosecutor had dropped all charges of assault, public disorder, contempt and incitement to commit a crime but was still charging the individuals with sedition.
The attorneys took issue with the charge, noting that the crime of sedition is defined in the Cuban penal code as “an attempt to destabilize state order.”
They argued that this does not apply to the fifteen defendants, who participated in a demonstration that occurred in the Havana neighborhood known as Diez de Octubre [Tenth of October], far from the seats of power, unlike other protests which took place outside the Capitol.
One of the recognizable faces at the trial was Jonathan Torres, who was 17-years-old at the time of the protests. Initially facing an eight-year sentence, it now appears he could instead be sentenced to correctional labor without internment. “They are asking that Jonathan get five years of ’subsidized sanction,’ meaning [he would be allowed to go] from home to work, from home to school,” said Orlando Ramirez, his stepfather.
Ramirez previously told Miami-based Martí News that the prosecutor had argued that officials had not used firearms in confrontations with the July 11 demonstrators. However, a witness presented by the Public Ministry said that some of his colleagues were in fact carrying firearms and that he had heard gunshots.
According to Torres’ stepfather, the sentence threatens to be stiffer in at least one case, that of Dayana Camejo Ramos, the only woman to be charged in this case. “They were asking for seven years. Now they’re asking for ten,” he said.
EFE has learned that, in its first filing from from December 30 of last year, the public prosecutor’s office accused the defendants of perpetrating acts “of unlimited violence.”
The written indictment describes them as throwing “stones, bottles, wood and other objects” at police and shouting slogans against the Cuban government and President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
The defendants range in age from 51 to 17. Trials for the July 11 demonstrators have been going on since late 2021.
Families of those found guilty and NGOs have criticized the trials, citing a lack of due process, fabricated evidence and overly harsh sentences. Neither foreign media nor independent journalists have been granted access to the proceedings.
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.