The prosecution of Cuba numbered more than 700 those accused of participating in the protests last July, who are charged with crimes such as sedition, vandalism, theft and public disorder.
Specifically, 790 people have been “instructed to charge for acts of vandalism,” the agency reported in a statement, in what is the first official confirmation of the prosecutions by the communist regime.
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Among the defendants, 710 face formal charges, of which 69% are in pretrial detention, according to the Cuban prosecutor’s office.
The body also announced that 172 people have already been tried and sentenced, without offering further details.
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Relatives of the accused and activists have denounced that the trials are not fair and the sentences disproportionate.
The authorities arrested hundreds of people in connection with the protests unleashed on July 11, 2021, the largest in decades in the Caribbean country.
That day thousands of people demonstrated throughout the island to express their discomfort at the shortage of food and medicine, high prices, government management of the pandemic and lack of freedoms.
Among the defendants there are 55 young people between 16 and 18 years old. In Cuba, the minimum age for criminal prosecution is 16 years, so they are tried as adults.
The unusual statement from the Prosecutor’s Office, which until now had not revealed specific data on the 11-J processes, comes after a barrage of complaints in recent weeks from relatives and activists, who have denounced the lack of transparency of the massive trials and the long prison sentences imposed on the defendants.
“We are devastated”
The human rights organization Justicia 11J assured that those already sentenced received prison sentences ranging from 4 to 30 years. Many of them were accused of sedition or of supporting the rebellion against the authorities.
“We are devastated,” Luis Aguilar, father of Walnier Luis, a 21-year-old sentenced to 23 years in prison for sedition, told BBC Mundo last month. “It is a disproportionate sentence, and we are tied hand and foot because there is no one to turn to,” he lamented.
The Cuban prosecutor’s office considers this type of accusation “manipulation and opinion patterns” and claimed to have “verified compliance with the constitutional rights and guarantees of due process” under the laws of the communist country.
“The right to defense was guaranteed, the lawyers provided evidence and had access to the proceedings,” the statement states, adding that the charges of sedition were applied in relation to “the level of violence demonstrated.”
In Cuba, unauthorized public gatherings are illegal and protests are rare. The demonstrations were mostly peaceful, although on specific occasions police vehicles were vandalized and state stores were looted.
The Cuban government blames US sanctions for the problems that sparked the protests and has repeatedly alleged that they were financed and instigated by groups based in the US.
The US Embassy in Havana criticized on its Twitter account the “disproportionate sentences to peaceful and innocent youth” and stated that the Cuban authorities “cannot crush the demands of the people for a better future.”
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