14ymedio, Havana, 2 February 2022 — Yudinela Castro Pérez, mother of 18-year-old Rowland Jesús Castillo Castro, one of the 33 defendants being tried this week in the Municipal Tribunal of Diez de Octubre for his participation in the July 11 protests, answers every call to her cell phone on Wednesday. “I am here to denounce what is happening,” she assured 14ymedio.
The young man is facing a 23-year sentence sought by the prosecutor for sedition, one of the longest faced by those in the group which protested near the corner of Toyo in Havana, against whom the proceedings began on Monday. “I will continue fighting for his freedom, whatever it takes,” clarified his mother. On Wednesday she’s had her phone on all day, she says, because she does not feel well — she has cancer — and she couldn’t go to the trial. Thursday, she will return to the tribunal.
Monday she was near Juan Delgado Park along with other mothers, in peaceful protest, “We said several prayers while holding hands, for our children.”
The day ended with Castro’s violent arrest and that of 14 other people, among them family members of the accused and activists who arrived to support them. “Around four in the afternoon we saw the trucks, which would be used to transport the guys, approaching. Then a bus arrived, in which they transported those of us arrested at the park.”
Some of those were taken to Villa Marista, she says, and others like herself to the San Miguel del Padrón police station. “We had to wait until 11 at night for the State Security agents to interrogate us. One of them, agent Denis, told me that I was associating with counterrevolutionaries and terrorists.”
The mother stated that she was unable to access the courtroom on Monday, “due to pressure from State Security,” although her husband went in her place (they only allow one family member of each defendant to attend, which has been denounced by civil society organizations on the Island and abroad) and that finally on Tuesday, she was present.
“Agent Denis also threatened to send my son to a prison in Guantánamo, very far from Havana, when he was indicted. He said that if I continue demanding and protesting, that’s what would happen, so I responded that wherever they send him outside of Pinar del Río, Santiago de Cuba, or the Isle of Youth, I’d go there as well. If I need to move to Guantánamo, I’ll go. I will never abandon my son,” clamored Castro.
With regards to the trail, she says that on Monday they presented testimonies of the accused and on Tuesday, the statements of the police officers who participated in repressing the protests that Sunday. “The testimonies of the police officers were incoherent, one criminal investigator was even admonished by the courtroom secretary for his despotic attitude,” she said. She continued, “The young people’s defense attorneys asked this official many questions to the point where he decided to leave the courtroom, and not continue testifying.”
Although Yudinela Castro lives in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, the events for which her son is being tried are related to the neighborhood of Santos Suárez in Diez de Octubre, where the young man’s father lives, and with whom he spends several days each month, especially when his mother’s health suffers a relapse due to her oncological condition.
“I know almost all those kids because they’ve been friends with my son since they were little,” she says. “They are good kids and now they are in the Occidente de Guatao Juvenile Prison.”
On Tuesday at the tribunal, she says, they played a video to show that those who are being tried were present at the protests. However, she says, “they did not play the other parts I’ve seen on the cell phones of people who filmed on the street near Toyo, which show the police shooting.”
“My son cannot spend another day in that prison, enduring all of the necessities of a prison in Cuba,” she claims. “After I raised my voice requesting his freedom and they arrested me in a violent manner, yesterday they allowed me to see him for 20 minutes, they granted me that possibility because I protested. Otherwise, they would not have given me that.”
Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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.