Amnesty International has called on Cuban authorities to allow the often-postponed trial of two dissidents and their neighbor to go ahead as scheduled Friday with full guarantees to a fair trial.
The three Cubans have been in pre-trial detention since March 18, 2012 — the ninth anniversary of the Black Spring crackdown on Cuba dissidents. The trial of Sonia Garro Alfonso — a member of the Ladies in White, her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González who belongs to the independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, and their neighbor, Eugenio Hernández, has already been postponed three times.
The arrests stem from an acto de repudio (act of repudiation) when a pro-government crowd gathered in front of the couple’s home to prevent them from participating in events commemorating the Black Spring anniversary.
Hernández reportedly went to the home of his neighbors to offer solidarity against the unruly crowd that had gathered. The Cuban public prosecutor charged that Muñoz González and Hernández — but not Garro — threw objects, including a television set, from the roof of the home at two members of a special state tactical security unit as they were trying to gain access to the roof with a ladder.
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Neither officer was hurt, according to Amnesty International.
The prosecutor said there is video evidence of the incident but the accused deny they threw anything. Amnesty said Garro was reportedly hit in the foot by a rubber bullet fired by a member of the tactical unit before her arrest.
In September 2013, the three were charged with public disorder and attempted murder. Garro Alfonso also has been charged with violence or intimidation against a state official.
On Thursday, Amnesty International called for urgent action and a letter-writing campaign to Cuban authorities, asking them to either allow a fair trial to go on without delay or to release the three pending trial.
“The right to a fair trial is severely limited in Cuba, with the courts and prosecutors under government control,’’ said Amnesty. “Trials of government critics are almost always of a summary nature. Witnesses for the defense are rarely allowed to testify and courts invariably sentence the accused for the charges requested by the public prosecutor.”
Amnesty said Cuban authorities should ensure the trial proceeds in accordance with international standards that would allow defense witnesses to be called and the accused to challenge the evidence against them.
Garro has been a member of the Ladies in White since 2006. The group had its genesis in the Black Spring crackdown and was originally formed by the wives of the 75 activists who were arrested. Later other sympathizers joined the group. Even though the original 75 are no longer jailed, the Ladies continue their marches and vigils on behalf of other political prisoners.
The 75 activists, among them 29 independent journalists, were convicted of acting as agents of the U.S. government. Most were sentenced to lengthy terms — many spanned 20 to 28 years. Amnesty International adopted all of the 75 as “prisoners of conscience.”
The Cuban government, however, has said the dissidents weren’t arrested for being critical of the communist state but rather they accepted aid from the U.S. government and collaborated with American diplomats. The release of the Group of 75 began in 2010 — but a condition for most was exile in Spain.