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Cuban authorities begin to punish young protesters in summary trials

Cuban authorities have started prosecuting participants in recent unprecedented anti-government protests in summary trials that began this week, family members and activists told the Miami Herald.

Young people, even minors, were among the main targets.

Photographer Anyelo Troya, 25, was tried on Tuesday and sentenced to one year in prison for “public disorder”, family members and activists told the Herald.

“They didn’t let me see him,” his mother, Raiza Gonzalez, said in a brief telephone interview.

After learning that her son was being held in the dreaded “100 and Aldabo” police station on Monday, she went to find a lawyer. But when they returned to see him on Tuesday, it was too late.

“When we arrived we were told he was being tried by a court in Diez de Octubre [on the other end of Havana]. We rushed, but we got there too late; he has already been tried along with 10 other “young protesters”, she said.

“Where is the right of my son Anyelo Troya González to have a transparent trial? Gonzalez wrote on Facebook. “I am taken aback by the reality in which I live. “

Troya worked in the production of the video for the viral song “Patria y Vida», Featuring members of the artist-activist movement of San Isidro. The song quickly became an anti-government anthem, and thousands of protesters chanted “Country and Vida”- Homeland and Life – in several cities during the protests.

Dance student Amanda Celaya, 17, will stand trial on Thursday, authorities told her family members.

“Finally, my niece Amanda Hernández Celaya was released last night to stay at home until Thursday 22, when she will be brought to justice. What is she accused of? “Public trouble,” freelance journalist Miriam Celaya wrote on Facebook.

Cuban activist Miriam Celaya, center, met President Barack Obama at the United States Embassy in Havana during his visit to the island in March 2016. Celaya’s niece was arrested by Cuban authorities after the July 11 protests.

Miriam Celaya told the Herald that her niece was arrested in Havana on Sunday because she was seen recording the protests on her cell phone. “She doesn’t play politics. Apparently she was just recording the demonstration with her cell phone, ”she said.

Camila Lobón, a visual artist and activist who helped confirm details of those arrested, said in a telephone interview that she was aware of two more cases of protesters who will soon be on trial: Alexander Diego Gil, actor, and Randy Arteaga. .

“Arteaga was held in Villa Clara, and he is the only child of an elderly couple. He is their only supplier; they don’t have the money to pay a lawyer, ”Lobón said. “They don’t even have a phone, so activists have to go to their homes to communicate with them.

“It’s a precarious situation for many families,” she added. “There is an ignorance of what they should be doing, legally. There is helplessness and fear, as many fear the authorities will retaliate if they speak out.

Summary trials, which began in the early days of the revolution, are not a thing of the past in Cuba. They have been used in cases involving dissidents and people allegedly violating government restrictions related to COVID-19.

“This is an express procedure for petty crimes,” Cuban lawyer Laritza Diversent said. “In summary trials, the time for ordinary proceedings can be cut in half. Anyone can be sent for trial anytime between 2-45 days. The sentence is pronounced orally; there is almost no documentation of the whole process, which makes any appeal difficult. It is very arbitrary.

It is not known why some protesters were released while others will stand trial. Authorities argue that those charged had committed violent crimes and that many had criminal records, but this does not match the profile of some of the people like Celaya and Troya currently in detention.

“The fact that they accuse people of public disturbance shows that they were just peaceful protesters and that they did not commit any crime,” Lobón said in a telephone interview.

She said public disturbance charges are frequently used against dissidents and activists like her who participate in public protests against the government. She was among the young artists arrested after a demonstration outside the Ministry of Culture last year. She says police and state security officials have prevented her from leaving her home for the past 29 days.

“So far there are 537 documented detentions. They could not all be involved in ‘acts of vandalism’, ”she said, referring to the version peddled by the Cuban government.

Several videos posted to social media by Cubans on the island documented how police, military officials and pro-government mobs beat protesters. Some videos show officers shooting at protesters.

But on state television, the official version was the opposite.

Moraima Bravet Garófalo, a colonel in the Interior Ministry, said the protests were violent and “were carried out using stones and knives, such as machetes, to attack the security forces”. State television only showed footage of overturned police cars or people looting a government dollar store that sells food and essentials.

The colonel also said the minors were not going to be prosecuted. Although the age of majority in Cuba is 18, the country’s laws allow people 16 and over to be charged. Those between the ages of 17 and 20, like Celaya, serve their sentences in separate penitentiaries or in different prison wings.

Government officials also denied on Tuesday that there were “missing” or “tortured” people on the island, and said the list of detainees compiled by activists and international human rights organizations was false.

The denial came after a statement by college student Leonardo Romero toured social media.

Romero told a pro-government youth publication, La Joven Cuba, that the police beat him after his arrest Sunday in Havana.

“They took me to the Dragones station and when we entered they threw me violently on the ground and four people kicked me everywhere,” he said. “I covered my face with my forearms and they kept kicking me. That’s why I have a swollen forearm, a doctor saw it. My ribs also hurt.

Romero said he was then taken to a yard, where another officer hit him in the legs with a plank of wood. Then, before he was transferred to another police station, another officer butted him in the nose, claiming he had done it because Romero was a “mercenary”.

“I almost passed out and they kept beating me before transferring me to Zanja station,” Romero said.

The fact that his comments were posted on a website that attacked dissidents shows just how widespread discontent with the government’s crackdown on young protesters is.

The Herald was unable to independently verify Romero’s testimony. After his case was mentioned on state television on Tuesday, he told friends he no longer does media interviews at this time. Without mentioning his name, a government prosecutor said his case was under investigation after his father filed a formal complaint with Cuba’s attorney general’s office.

Lobón said the list of detainees she helps compile and verify is based on information provided by family and friends, and challenged the government to disclose the official number of arrests following protests across the island.

“The Cuban legal system is a black hole, and when you fall into it you are helpless,” she said. “Most of those arrested did not commit any crime, but they want to make a public example of it. Summary trials have just started, but there are many more to come.

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