A climate of tension reigned this week around the Havana court where 33 participants in the demonstrations of July 11, 2021 were tried for sedition, their relatives, moved and frightened, waiting for news in a nearby park.
“On Monday, I had a problem here, they arrested me and I’m afraid they’ll arrest me again”, testifies, eyes wet with tears, Belkis Ortiz, the grandmother of Duannis Dabel Leon Taboada, a 22-year-old against whom the prosecution has requested 21 years in prison.
In total, 33 demonstrators appeared from Monday to Thursday for the offense of sedition, in the court of the district 10 de Octubre, risking up to 25 years in prison.
On Monday, around 30 people began to form a circle near the courthouse to shout “Justice” and “Freedom” for their loved ones.
According to the opposition organization Justicia 11J, at least 14 of them were arrested “with violence”, including activist Carolina Barrero.
On Thursday, the latter was forced to leave the country for Spain, a fate similar to that of other figures of dissent and independent journalism in recent months.
“State Security gave me 48 hours to leave,” she posted on Facebook, explaining that if she refused, protesters’ mothers and arrested activists “would face public disorder charges.” .
– “Extreme violence” –
Monday’s hearing took place under an imposing police presence.
The trial is known as that of Toyo, named after a bakery in front of which scuffles took place on July 11 between pro and anti-government. Vehicles had been damaged, a police car overturned, and the road covered with stones and bottles.
In recent days, the Cuban authorities, hitherto silent on these legal proceedings, have given their version of the facts.
Those accused of sedition “acted with extreme violence, organized disturbances of public order, agreed, expressly or tacitly, not to respect the official institutions responsible for guaranteeing security and tranquility citizen,” said the official portal Cubadebate Lisnay Maria Mederos Torres, of the directorate of judicial proceedings at the general prosecutor’s office.
Furthermore, “they used foul and offensive language to incite violence, they threw sharp, blunt or incendiary objects at public property, they destroyed everything in their path”.
She assured that the trials were taking place “with broad participation” from defense lawyers.
In total, more than 700 Cubans, including 55 under the age of 18, have been charged for the demonstrations, unprecedented since the 1959 revolution, and 172 others have already been convicted, according to justice.
At the court trial of 10 de Octubre, only a family member of the accused could enter, and not the foreign press. A court official explained to AFP that, to attend the trials, the media must be authorized directly by the president of the Supreme Court.
– Critics of Washington –
The American authorities have not ceased in recent weeks to criticize these trials. On Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price expressed concern about the fate of political prisoners, including artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Maykel Osorbo.
“We urge the government of Cuba to stop imprisoning its citizens for exercising their freedom of expression,” he tweeted.
For Laila Prieto de La Rosa, wife of a protester from Toyo, her husband does not deserve what is happening to him.
“He climbed on the roof of a police car and for that they are asking for 25 years in prison,” said the 20-year-old, raising her voice in anger. “The trial is a total drama and I don’t agree, I don’t expect anything good”.
During an interruption of the session, she leaves the court and goes to meet with those who are waiting in the park and complain that they can no longer approach.
“They send us here, more than a block away,” sighs Caridad Garcia, 62, whose 24-year-old granddaughter faces 17 years in prison.
The trial concluded Thursday, and the judgment was reserved.
“Justice is all we ask for, it’s too many years (in prison), these kids are very young,” said, sitting on the grass, Yesenia Diaz, 32, whose brother Oscar Bravo, 23, worked at Havana airport until his incarceration.