Police Surround Palace of Justice in Santiago de Cuba for Trial Against Jose Daniel Ferrer

Ferrer, 49, spent almost eight years in prison after his arrest, in 2003, as part of the 75 dissidents who were victims of the Black Spring. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 26, 2020 — The trial against José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), began this Wednesday morning in the city of Santiago de Cuba , without having been previously announced in the official press, which has launched a massive smear campaign against the opposition figure in recent months.

Ferrer, 49,  one of the Cuban dissidents with the greatest international renown at, has been imprisoned since October for an alleged attack on another man, a charge that his relatives deny while insisting that it is a crime “prefabricated” by the Government. The prosecution is asking for nine years in prison for the Unpacu leader, who spent almost eight years in prison after his arrest, in 2003, as part of the 75 dissidents who were victims of the Black Spring.

This Wednesday the telephones of several Unpacu coordinators as well as that of Nelva Ortega, Ferrer’s wife, are “out of coverage,” as 14ymedio was able to confirm.

Since Monday afternoon, activists from the opposition organization have denounced the Police and State Security siege on their headquarters in Santiago de Cuba and the arrest of their coordinator in Havana, Zaqueo Baéz.

The activist Joanna Columbié, who lives in Miami, denounced in the morning hours the detention of her brother Dariem Columbié, who is coordinator of the movement Somos+ (We Are More). According to her, the young man was arrested in the area around the Palace of Justice when he was trying to attend Ferrer’s trial.

At the time of his arrest, Joanna was communicating with her brother and published a screenshot of the conversation in which her brother said that the Palace of Justice was surrounded by Security and political police agence to prevent access.

The opposition leader had asked his family, during a visit to him in prison on February 14, to begin a campaign with the hashtag #YoSoyElQueAcusa (I am the one who accuses).

“It is José Daniel who accuses the Castro dictatorship of crimes against humanity, of violating his rights and liberties, as well as those of all Cubans, of raiding and looting his home on repeated occasions,” explained his sister, Ana Belkis Ferrer.

In the operations they have employed “even firearms,” she says on social media, where she also denounces “the terrifying acts of repudiation against him, his family, and other members of Unpacu, attempted murder on three occasions, threats, slander, savage beatings, defamation campaigns, physical and psychological torture, depriving him of his liberty and putting his life at risk.”

In October in an interview with 14ymedio, Nelva Ortega explained that the habeas corpus she presented to obtain information on Ferrer’s situation was rejected by authorities.

Along with José Daniel Ferrer, the activists Fernando González Vaillant, Roilán Zárraga Ferrer, and José Pupo Chaveco, members of Unpacu, were accused of damages, deprivation of liberty, and assault.

“I have few expectations that José Daniel Ferrer will have a fair trial,” the European Union’s vice president responsible for Latin America, Dita Charanzová, told the Spanish newspaper ABC.

“Since they arbitrarily arrested him, there have been all sorts of irregularities in the process, in addition to the abuse and torture that José Daniel was subjected to. Thus, the European Parliament will be closely following the case and will react accordingly,” added Charanzová, who is also the representative of the Czech Republic in the European Parliament.

Hours before the trial the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, urged in a letter to his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, to “immediately” release the dissident José Daniel Ferrer, leader of Unpacu.

Groups like Amnesty International and institutions like the Organization of American States have also asked for his release on several occasions.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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