The United States Calls for the Release of Cuban Protesters Detained on 11 July 2021 (11J)

Photo of Jonathan Torres Farrat with his mother published by Nichols to demand the release of the llJ prisoners. (@WHAAsstSecty)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana/Washington, 24 November 2022 — The United States called for the release of Cuban demonstrators detained in the protests of July 11, 2021, who are being tried this Wednesday, including Jonathan Torres, a minor when the events occurred.

“We are concerned about the upcoming trial of Jonathan Torres Farrat, who was only 17 years old during the 11J protests. He faces up to 8 years in prison,” the Undersecretary for Latin America of the State Department, Brian Nichols, said on social media.

The message is accompanied by a photograph of the young man, who was accused of “public disorder” and “assault” after participating in the largest protests in Cuba in decades. “Families must be together. The Cuban government must release Jonathan and other detained protesters,” adds the head of relations with Latin America holding the foreign portfolio.

Torres’ mother, Bárbara Farrat, said she felt hopeful after the first day of the trial, speaking to the Spanish agency EFE. “There is hope that a lower penalty will be achieved,” she said.

Farrat, who defends her son’s innocence, said she observed that the president of the Havana court who judges him could opt for the penalty of “correctional work without internment.”

Torres’ mother had been summoned to testify against her own son, but refrained from doing so, she told EFE.

In the first session of the trial, the testimony of one of the witnesses for the Prosecutor’s Office — a police officer who claimed to have been assaulted by the demonstrators — was discarded after he contradicted himself and failed to identify his attackers, according to the mother and her husband, Orlando Ramírez. “They presented videos as evidence (against the 15 prosecuted), but there were times when an expert said that he could only be 50% sure that it was Jonathan. They also wanted to say that it was him because of the color of his shoes,” Ramírez said. An agent, Ramírez recalled, even said that there was a video of the assault, but this turned out not to be true.

Despite what they saw in the courtroom this Wednesday, Ramírez and Ferrat doubt that there may be an acquittal. “We all know the situation that the boys are in,” they said regretfully.

According to the letter to which EFE had access, the defendants are accused of throwing “stones, bottles, pieces of wood and other items” at the police and shouting slogans against the Government and President Miguel Díaz-Canel. According to the prosecutor’s petition, dated December 30 of last year, the defendants carried out actions “of violence without limits.”

The ages of the defendants range between 17 and 51 years old, with Torres being the youngest. He is one of the 55 protesters between the ages of 16 and 17 who face criminal proceedings for the events.

Although the Supreme Court alleges that in all cases “due process” is observed, the relatives of the convicted and some NGOs warn of the constant irregularities. In addition, access to the trials for the independent or foreign press or the diplomats who requested it has not been allowed.

After the 11J protests, about 600 sentences have been handed down, some up to 30 years in prison. Several of the magistrates who are judging these cases have been added to the list of repressors prepared by the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FDHC).

Precisely, one of the people on the list is the Cuban prosecutor Vivian Pérez Pérez, who prepared the dossiers against the 15 defendants now in Havana, in addition to another for San Miguel Padrón. In both cases she requested very high penalties.

“Since June, Pérez Pérez can be found under file number 597 in the database of Cuban repressors, for having produced two unjust dossiers in the preparatory phase against peaceful 11J protesters,” said Rolando Cartaya, a specialist in the FDHC program.

“In the first, number 755, she requested penalties of between 5 and 14 years in prison for 15 of those who protested in the municipality of San Miguel del Padrón, mostly young people, accused of public disorder, contempt, assault and incitement to commit a crime. At the end of October, the relatives of these defendants received word of the final sentences: between 3 and 10 years in prison.”

“It is now announced that 15 other protesters of that popular uprising will go to trial on November 23 and 24, but in the municipality of Diez de Octubre. Prosecutor Pérez Pérez was even more severe in asking for sentences of 7 to 12 years of deprivation of liberty for the same crimes. But in this case, 13 of the 15 defendants face prosecutors’ petitions for 10 years or more.”

“Prosecutor Pérez Pérez could be accused of two malfeasance charges for requesting these sentences, obviously unfair and disproportionate,” Cartaya concluded.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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