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Crime Hundreds of Cuban protesters are still detained, including prominent dissidents

00:06  07 august  2021
00:06  07 august  2021 Source:   miamiherald.com

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His screaming face became one of the iconic images of the widespread July 11 protests in Cuba, making the front pages of newspapers worldwide. The photo, taken by an Agence France-Presse photographer, shows the moment of his arrest in front of the capitol in Havana — one man in civilian clothes grabbing him by his neck and back as he tries to drag the young man to an open car.

a group of people standing in a parking lot: A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, on July 11, 2021.- Thousands of Cubans took part in rare protests Sunday against the communist government, marching through a town chanting © Yamil Lage/AFP/AFP/TNS A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, on July 11, 2021.- Thousands of Cubans took part in rare protests Sunday against the communist government, marching through a town chanting "Down with the dictatorship" and "We want liberty."

The young man is Rolando Remedios Sánchez, 25, and he is one of the hundreds arrested that day who are still in jail, among them some of Cuba’s most prominent dissident leaders. Cuban authorities accuse Remedios of causing a “public disorder,” the most frequently used charge against the demonstrators.

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“He did go to demonstrate peacefully, and he firmly defends his right to do so, so he rejects any charges. He told his father he wouldn’t even agree to a fine,” his aunt Marilys Remedios, who lives in Miami, told the Miami Herald.

Rolando is currently in El Guatao prison in Havana. He told his father, who saw him briefly, that he is sleeping on the floor because the bed has bugs, his brother Alberto Remedios said in a phone call from Ecuador.

The family still doesn’t know when he will go to trial. Still, they believe that photo might get Remedios out of jail: A police officer testified that he saw the young man throwing stones at a demonstration in Luyanó, on the opposite side of the city. “But the photo can be traced to a place and time,” his brother said. “He couldn’t be at two places at the same time.”

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On Thursday, the prosecutor told Rolando’s defense lawyer that she still has not reviewed his file and that “it would take time to do so,” his brother said.

Sixty-two people have already been sentenced in summary trials for participating in the islandwide anti-government demonstrations, a member of the Cuban Supreme Court told the official newspaper Granma on Thursday. But Cubalex, an organization tracking the arrests, estimates that at least 555 people are still in detention out of 770 documented cases.

“Forty-five are disappeared. Their families still have no information of their whereabouts,” said Human Rights Watch Executive Director Jose Miguel Vivanco.

The brother of José Daniel Ferrer, the former political prisoner and opposition leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, or UNPACU, said his family hasn’t been able to see him since the police detained him on July 11 with his older son in Santiago de Cuba. The son was later released, but the father wasn’t. And the family fears that this time the government will try to keep Ferrer in jail for longer.

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“We don’t know where he is, nor what’s the situation of other members of UNPACU because we have lost communication with many of them,” said his brother Luis Enrique Ferrer, who lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. “They threatened his wife and told her that they would arrest her if she continued going to every police station in Santiago de Cuba to find out his whereabouts.”

“Everything is uncertain, and we fear the dictatorship is trying to gain time to leave him in prison for a long time,” he added.

Jose Daniel Ferrer has long been a target of the Cuban regime. He is one of the 75 dissidents who were given long sentences in 2003, during the so-called Black Spring. Authorities released him on parole after serving eight years, and since then, they have arrested him several times. In April 2020 he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years of house arrest for charges that he and other activists said were fabricated.

Contrary to what Cuban officials have been telling U.S. media, a prosecution document obtained by the family and shared with the Herald shows Ferrer and his son were arrested under “public disorder” charges without having committed acts of violence.

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According to the document, their alleged crime was joining and inciting others to participate in the “demonstrations against the revolutionary process and its main leaders.” The prosecutor wrote that at the moment of being arrested in Santiago de Cuba, they did not follow police orders to stay quiet and shouted “obscene words and slogans like ‘Down with Diaz-Canel’ and ‘End the hunger.’ ”

Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, the San Isidro Movement leader whose hunger strike inspired a demonstration last November, remains in a maximum-security prison in Guanajay, west of Havana. He was also arrested while trying to join the anti-government protests on July 11. According to a note in the movement’s Facebook account, he was charged with “assault, contempt of the authorities and resisting the authorities.”

His defense lawyer saw him Thursday for the first time, Otero Alcantara’s girlfriend, the art curator Claudia Genlui, told the Herald.

“What we know is that he is in good health, but beyond that, the lawyer could not find out more,” she said.

While high-profile cases get attention from the international community, activists are worried that many other ordinary Cubans who have been arrested for participating in the protests might be in a more vulnerable situation. Their family members abroad are trying to get their names publicized in an effort to pressure authorities to release them.

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That’s the case of Manuel Diaz Rodriguez, 58, whose family set up a Twitter account to get the word out on his arrest. He was detained in Bauta, southwest of Havana, on July 11 and taken to a prison in the nearby town of Caimito. Authorities recently transferred him to the same maximum-security prison in Guanajay.

A soccer fan, he can be spotted in several videos of the demonstrations in Bauta wearing a Brazilian team T-shirt. In one video he is seen running away from a crowd and then stopping to breathe while bringing one hand to his stomach.

“He was badly beaten,” said her cousin Gretel Delgado, who lives in Miami Springs.

The prosecutor’s office is accusing him of “public disorder, a very wide term prosecutors are using and misusing to avoid calling them political prisoners,” Delgado said. “He is incommunicado; his lawyer cannot see him until next Thursday since he is in ‘quarantine,’ or so they say.”

His cake delivery business helps him pay for the care of his 92-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s. She is now under the care of neighbors, Delgado said.

Global Liberty Alliance, a Virginia-based nonprofit that is providing legal aid to some of the people detained, said three members of the Association of Free Yorubas of Cuba — Loreto Hernandez Garcia, Donaida Perez Paseiro, and Elizabeth Cintra Garcia — were also facing charges related to their participation in the protests in Villa Clara province.

According to the statement, Hernandez Garcia was rushed to the doctor at the Caibarien prison on Aug. 2 “after complaining of chest pains and high blood pressure.” The doctor at the Caibarien facility told him he was experiencing the precursor to a heart attack “and was in a critical state of health.”

But the Cuban authorities did not release him. Instead, they transferred him on Wednesday to another prison in Santa Clara, the statement said.

On Thursday, Amnesty International sent a letter addressed to Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel inquiring about the official number of detainees and more information on their situation.

To family members, many trying to help miles away from another country, the uncertainty about their loved ones is causing much anguish.

“I haven’t lived from the moment I saw the photo and knew that it was my nephew,” said Marilys Remedios, Rolando’s aunt. “I am suffering; I ask that his case is known and that he is released,” she said amid tears.

“I am working for his release,” she added, “but I speak for all the young people detained.”

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usr: 1
This is interesting!