14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 9 August 2021 — Of the dozen appeals filed last Friday to the sentences handed down against protesters from the July 11 protests, only four have been successful. The strong police operation that day around the People’s Provincial Court of Havana, near the Capitol, to prevent relatives and onlookers from approaching continues as of this Monday.
In the opinion of a lawyer consulted by this newspaper, who clarifies that there are still appeals to be presented, there were lawyers who made “a good defense,” arguing as their main thesis that there was no crime or proposing an “adaptation” of the sanction to benefit the accused. Despite this, the court declared the appeal “valid” in only four cases.
“After the appeal, two defendants who were deprived of their liberty were modified to correctional work with internment; another, to correctional work without internment, and a fourth, to limitation of liberty. For three, the measure of provisional imprisonment was reduced,” details.
Among those who were lucky are Armando Sardiñas Figueredo and the photographer Anyelo Troya, responsible for filming the images taken in Havana for the video clip of Patria y Vida. Sardiñas sentence was changed from ten months of deprivation of liberty for equal time of correctional work on a farm, and Troya was released with a fine of 14,150 pesos.
“I came out fined and exhausted but free. The trial lasted almost eight hours.”
“I came out with a fine and exhausted but free,” Troyat told 14ymedio this Saturday. “The trial lasted almost eight hours,” the artist added.
Another of the relatives of the detainees, Ostraida Quintana, posted on his social networks that his nephew, Damián Acevedo Quintana, was released on Friday night. “In the appeal trial he was sentenced to three months of correctional work without detention and a fine of 300 pesos (about 12 euros in the official exchange, 4 euros in the informal exchange),” he said.
“In Cuba there is no justice,” wrote Yaquelin Salas Hernández, wife of Dashiel Alfonso, one of those arrested after the demonstrations on July 11, at the end of the appeal of his sentence.
For her, the appeal trial showed “a total lack of respect” and the authorities “are taking actions to set an example… My husband was the only one who presented firm eyewitnesses, and the court’s decision was based on the fact that the witnesses could not agree on whether or not there were disturbances in the place, when that is factor,” says the woman in conversation with 14ymedio. “Both made it clear that the demonstration had happened, but whether they were people or riots, that depends on the perception of each one.”
Alfonso Catá was arrested when he came to the defense of a woman who was violently detained by three civilian-clad political police officers.
“Both witnesses agreed on the concrete fact of what happened and above all that my husband never acted with violence; on the contrary, he was the victim of violence”
“Both witnesses agreed on the specific fact of what happened and above all that my husband never acted with violence; on the contrary, he was the victim of violence. His witnesses did see what happened and if they know the reason for his arrest, which does not constitute a crime and it was proven. The sanction of my husband like that of many others was crude and showed a lack of respect at the highest levels,” she says.
She explains that “these arbitrary processes” are unprecedented. “I am going to demand the principle of equality before the law because my husband had many factors in his favor and they were simply dismissed, clearly because they understood it that way.”
For the lawyer Laritza Diversent, director and founder of the Cubalex legal advice center, the only beneficiary was the defendant who was released or was acquitted: although the sentence seems less rigorous, for example changing prison for a regime of “correctional work,” such as in the case of Sardiñas, “they have to work like mules and the conditions are terrible,” she told 14ymedio.
The lawyer also denounces that the law was selectively enforced: “Not all the people who participated in the July 11 demonstrations were accused of public disorder and, at the same time, those who participated in favor of the Government and responded to the president’s call [to defend the Revolution] were not sanctioned,” she laments. “No proceedings were initiated against them, not even against those who initiated violence with sticks and stones.”
“There is nothing of benevolence in a sanction for something that does not constitute a crime,” continues the attorney. “Demonstration in Cuba is constituted as a constitutional right and the people went out and demonstrated. There is no rule that says how they should do it and ‘public disorder’ cannot be used to restrict human rights in the way it was used.”
Diversent says the State wasted the opportunity offered by the appeals to correct the “mistakes” they made when trying the protesters in municipal courts
Diversent says the State wasted the opportunity offered by appeals to correct the “mistakes” they made when trying the protesters in municipal courts with “serious violations of guarantees and due process.” The president of the Supreme Court himself said that mistakes had been made and that they could correct them, notes Diversent, but “they did not.”
The lawyer, who is collaborating in the preparation of a list of detainees and disappeared after the historic day of protests, calls on the State to stop the “prosecution” of the July 11 protesters. “Those people only came out to demonstrate. Even those who reacted violently, it was in legitimate defense, because the one who gave the order for violence was the president,” she believes.
After watching the videos of that day, Diversent’s perception is that the police authorities were not protecting public order.
“They prevented the exercise of a right that is recognized in the Constitution and there was no reason to do so,” she said. And she continues to enumerate: “They did not acknowledge the violations of the guarantees of due process, which in many cases were without lawyers in the first place. In the cases where a lawyer was hired, the defendants were still not represented, because the lawyers were not allowed to participate in the trial.” Now, she concludes, all that remains is an appeal for a “review.”
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.