Cuban dissidents are sentenced to 25 years in prison

The first Cuban dissidents to be tried after a round-up of about 80 opponents of Fidel Castro's government last month received prison sentences of between 15 and 25 years yesterday, prompting condemnations from the US government and international free-speech groups.

The first batch of convictions, believed to number about a dozen, included one prominent political leader, Hector Palacios, and two well-known journalists, Raul Rivero and Ricardo Gonzalez. The trials, expected to conclude this week, are being held behind closed doors in what the US State Department has characterised a "kangaroo court".

News of the first sentences were announced by family members. "This is an injustice," said Gisela Delgado, the wife of Mr Palacios, and she told reporters that her husband had been given a 25-year term for collaborating with American diplomats to undermine the state. "We are as Cuban as members of the Communist Party," she said.

Last month's arrests constituted the largest crackdown on dissent Cuba has seen for many years. They were made apparently in reaction to the activities of James Cason, the new US head of mission in Cuba, who has openly courted dissidents and delivered vehement anti-Castro speeches in their presence.

Mr Cason, who heads the so-called US Interests Section, particularly upset the authorities with a meeting held at his house in February in which he told the assembled company: "The Cuban government is afraid: afraid of freedom of conscience, afraid of freedom of expression, afraid of human rights."

Mr Castro described the meeting as a "shameless and defiant provocation" and threatened to close the US mission altogether. Instead, he ordered the arrests of dissidents and imposed new travel restrictions on US diplomats wishing to leave Havana.

The United States has accused the Cuban government of taking advantage of the war in Iraq to move against its opponents while world opinion is focused elsewhere. The Cubans have accused the Americans, in turn, of openly attempting to foment "regime change" in Cuba without respect for diplomatic etiquette.

Until Mr Cason arrived in Cuba, dissidents were given a certain degree of latitude to publish independent viewpoints and to organise their own unions and political parties. According to reports in the US media, Mr Cason has not only broadened contacts with dissidents, but has also organised the distribution of anti-Castro books and documents and handed out shortwave radios to enable Cubans to listen to anti-government broadcasts from Florida.

Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to Mr Castro urging him to free 27 independent writers and reporters caught up in the crackdown and to return confiscated computers, research materials and other equipment seized from their homes.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Hourly Paid Teachers

£20 - £25 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curren...

Technical Project Manager - Software and Infrastructure - Government Experience

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits