14ymedio, Havana, Cuba, October 4, 2021–Cuban prosecutors seek an eight-year prison sentence for Yoan de la Cruz, a young man who on July 11th streamed a live feed of the first protests in San Antonio de los Baños, considered to be the start of the anti-government protests throughout the entire country. The information, the details of which are unknown, was shared by his mother via several activists.
The young man is being held in the Melena del Sur, Mayabeque prison, practically incommunicado and due to COVID-19 restrictions, he is only allowed to call his family by phone, according to his aunt, Odalys Hernández Rizo speaking to 14ymedio.
“They were accusing him of public disorder, but eight years for that is ridiculous,” said Yoan’s aunt, who emphasizes that the three appeals submitted to date have been rejected by the Cuban justice system.
His mother confirmed that, in addition, he is being charged with contempt. “He did not do anything to deserve that many years. All he did was film. Now they accuse him of contempt. He is a good young man. The entire town loves him,” she shared in a message on the social media accounts of various groups: those in favor of the protests on July 11th and those of the city of San Antonio de los Baños.
The request for eight years in prison for those who protested on July 11th is becoming the norm in cases that have yet to be tried. Initially, dozens of protesters who were processed in summary trials this summer received fines and less severe sentences.
Last week, for most of the 16 Cubans who protested in Placetas, the Public Ministry sought a similar number of years behind bars for charges of disorder and contempt. Among them are twin sisters, Lisdany and Lisdiany Rodríguez Isaac, facing 10 years because local prosecutors are charging them with two counts of assault.
To our knowledge, the most severe sanctions are against Robert Pérez Fonseca, accused of two counts of assault and two counts of contempt, in addition to instigating a crime and public disorder. In his case, the prosecutor sought 12 years; his family attributes this to his ripping a photograph of Fidel Castro during the marches in San José de las Lajas, Mayabeque.
The peaceful presence of Yoan de la Cruz has been confirmed by various people on social media. “Yoan de la Cruz, a Cuban from Ariguanabo, but much more; a brave young man who, with a cell phone and a few megabytes, showed the entire world that in San Antonio de los Baños there is a small town full of brave people like him, who have had enough of living imprisoned and took to the streets to shout, ’Freedom!’ Free him already, cowards! They think they are so big to feel that a young man with a phone in hand makes them tremble in the house of cards where they live,” said one of his friends a few days after his detention.
“He didn’t throw stones, he didn’t break glass, he didn’t strike anyone, he didn’t yell down with anyone. Please, release him already. They are making a mother, a grandmother, a family and thousands of friends suffer,” said another of his many colleagues who advocated for his release, which almost three months later, seems less certain.
The list of people detained in Cuba for protesting on July 11th surpassed 1,000 and more than half remain in prison.
Authorities confirmed that all those detained following July 11th are processed according to the country’s legal and penal codes; however, this is completely contradicted by the testimonials of those who have been released and their families as well as Cubalex, a law firm that is following these cases.
Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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